What is presbycusis?
Presbycusis is a gradual hearing loss that occurs as we get older. This type of hearing loss can affect how we hear conversations, as a lot of speech is made up of high frequency sounds, so certain words will be unclear or just sounds like people are mumbling. It usually affects both ears at once (bilateral hearing loss).
Presbycusis occurs naturally through the accumulated effect of loud noises we hear throughout our lives, including music, traffic, and machinery. Over time, this damages the hair-like cells in the inner ear that are important for passing sound information on to the brain.
Other factors that can contribute to this include:
- Family history
- Existing health conditions, like high blood pressure and diabetes
- Side effect of certain medications
As an age-related condition, presbycusis cannot be cured. However, there are many effective ways to treat the symptoms and reduce the impact hearing loss can have on your daily life, including:
- Wearing hearing aids – this is the most common treatment, and help to amplify the sounds you have trouble with
- Using assistive listening devices – these can raise the clarity of sound from your TV, phone and other electronics, with or without a hearing aid
- A cochlear implant – this might be necessary in more profound cases of hearing loss and involves placing a medical device behind the ear that does the same job as the damaged parts within
- Learning to lip read – there are many support groups out there that can help you to cope with hearing loss and learn techniques to better understand speech
We’d advise that you should start getting your ears checked after the age of 55.
When diagnosing presbycusis, your audiologist will examine the inside of your ears and try to rule out any other possible causes of hearing loss.
They’ll also carry out a hearing test or audiogram to identify the type and extent of your hearing loss. This will usually confirm whether you have presbycusis.
Presbycusis is an age-related hearing loss that affects you as you get older, generally in both ears. It is particularly common in people over 65.
If you have presbycusis you might struggle with conversations in the street, in a bar or on television. Higher pitched sounds may become muffled.
Presbycusis cannot be cured as it is a natural part of ageing, but fortunately hearing aids are a highly effective treatment.