What is Presbycusis, and What Causes It?

Last Updated January 18, 2023

Amy Sarow

By Amy Sarow

Doctor of Audiology

Presbycusis age related hearing loss

Age related hearing loss due to natural aging is called presbycusis. It’s one of the most common forms of hearing loss and affects millions of adults over 50. Age related hearing loss can significantly impact the quality of life and social interaction, so it’s essential to understand what causes it and what can be done about it.

Presbycusis age related hearing loss

There are four types of age related hearing loss. Unlike conductive hearing loss, which occurs when sound waves are blocked from passing effectively to the inner ear, age related hearing loss affects structures in the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss is usually caused by an accumulation of wax in the ear canal, fluid in the middle ear, or even physical damage to the eardrum or ossicles (three tiny bones in the middle ear). Difficulty hearing with age is often due to permanent hearing loss, making it easier to hear low-pitched noises and creating a hearing problem for high-pitched sounds. Presbycusis is the medical term for age-related hearing loss, which can occur due to several causes and in four main types.

Metabolic

Metabolic age related hearing loss results from changes in blood flow to the stria vascularis or metabolic breakdown. For some, health conditions that affect blood flow or circulation causes age related hearing loss.

Mechanical

Mechanical sensorineural hearing loss is caused by stiffness in the structures of the cochlea, while metabolic age related hearing loss results from changes in blood flow or metabolic breakdown.

Sensory

On the other hand, sensory hearing loss is caused by damage to the sensory hair cells in the inner ear.

Neural

Finally, neural age related hearing loss comes about as a result of either impairment of the cochlear neurons or disruption of sound transmission along the auditory nerve.

Each type can contribute to some degree of hearing loss, so it is essential to investigate what could be causing your hearing issues if you are experiencing signs of age related hearing loss. In addition, conditions that affect overall health, such as high blood pressure or cardiovascular conditions, can affect the auditory nerve and should be addressed.

Presbycusis age related hearing loss

There are a variety of etiologies that can result in age related hearing loss. Some of these include loud noise exposure (work-related noise, loud music, or loud noise), neurological conditions, benign growths on the hearing nerve, certain drugs or medications, or autoimmune disease. Both genetic factors and environment play a role in the development of age-related hearing loss.

Today we know that age related hearing loss is one of the leading, potentially modifiable risk factors in cognitive decline. Identifying and treating hearing loss early in the process can help keep you mentally, physically, and cognitively healthy for years to come.

Presbycusis age related hearing loss

Hearing loss, in many cases, can be treated with hearing aids. However,  it is not the same as vision correction. Your hearing aid will be fit to your hearing prescription. However, speech clarity may not always be resolved with volume. If the hearing loss is more neural in origin, the speech signal can seem distorted. Some find a more premium hearing aid beneficial in this case to help enhance the speech signal. Visual cues will also be advantageous to reinforce the speech signal.

Presbycusis age related hearing loss

Some of the typical age related hearing loss symptoms include:

  • Withdrawing from conversations
  • Turning up the volume on the TV
  • Trouble hearing in background noise
  • Speech lacks clarity
  • Frequently asking for repetition or for others to speak louder

Because age related hearing loss typically affects the high frequencies or high pitched sounds, low frequencies may be less affected. That means there may be times when you hear someone talking, but the words are not always clear. If you notice symptoms of age related hearing loss, you’ll want to have a hearing test and discuss your options.

Presbycusis age related hearing loss

Most commonly age related hearing loss affects both ears equally. However, some factors can cause hearing loss in one or both ears. For example, age related hearing loss may be worsened by noise induced hearing loss from loud sounds due to weapons exposure. In addition, depending on the handedness of the shooter, one ear may have more hearing loss than the other.

However, sudden hearing loss needs medical treatment. If you experience a sudden change in hearing, you’ll want to reach out to your physician or an ENT specialist to receive timely treatment.

No, presbycusis does not always lead to profound deafness; however, it can significantly reduce your ability to hear clearly in noisy environments like restaurants and churches. In addition, the degree of this impairment depends on its severity; mild cases may only result in difficulty understanding speech, while more severe cases may make it difficult for you to carry on a conversation at all.

Treating your hearing loss is also essential, and the sooner you receive treatment, the better you’ll be able to acquire and preserve your speech understanding. The brain is like a muscle; the more you use it and keep it processing and active, the better your overall brain health will be.

senior with hearing problem

Aging is one of the most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). As we age, our bodies become less able to repair damaged cells within our ears; this results in permanent changes that impair our ability to hear clearly and accurately.

Other factors contributing to SNHL include excessive exposure to loud noises (such as construction work or concerts), certain medical conditions (like Meniere’s disease), genetics, medications, head trauma, and even smoking cigarettes.

senior with hearing aid

Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent in most cases and does not improve. Likewise, hearing loss that stems from the inner ear does not improve. Age related hearing loss tends to be progressive and worsens over time.

However, hearing aids can help improve your hearing and keep you more connected. Nearly half of older adults have high frequency age related hearing loss from the inner ear.

Presbycusis age related hearing loss

We offer the latest hearing healthcare technology at House of Hearing. In addition, you’ll see a hearing specialist from our talented team who is specially trained in managing hearing problems and will discuss the best options for your hearing loss.

Hearing Aids

Fortunately, there is excellent hearing technology available to help. For example, Phonak Lumity hearing aids can help you hear better, even in settings with background noise. These hearing aids also boost soft voices, which is great for listening to your grandchildren. In addition, your hearing aids will help you overcome difficulty hearing your family and friends, and you’ll feel more connected to those around you.

Please get in touch with us at House of Hearing today to talk about your options. Are you relying primarily on lip reading to help you understand? Our talented and highly trained team members are experts in hearing healthcare. Most forms of age related hearing loss can be managed well with hearing aids or assistive listening devices.

Conclusion

While age related hearing loss cannot be reversed, there are steps you can take toward preserving your auditory and cognitive health. If you are experiencing symptoms like difficulty understanding conversations, reach out to schedule an appointment with House of Hearing today.

Let’s help you! We are your local hearing clinic, specializing in hearing tests, hearing aid prescription & fitting, ear wax management, custom earplugs, and tinnitus consultation.


House of Hearing has a broad portfolio of options available to treat mild up to even profound hearing loss. Please talk with us today about how we can get you hearing better with top brands of hearing aids.  We’ll walk you through the process and ensure you’re getting the best possible hearing aid for your needs.

We understand that not everyone is the same, so we offer a variety of services to choose from including:

  • Comprehensive Hearing Tests.
  • 14-Day Hearing Aid Trials
  • Warranty and Service Plans
  • Excellent care and support

What are you waiting for? Improve your hearing today!


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