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Age-Related Hearing Loss (Presbycusis)

Loss of hearing that gradually occurs because of changes in the inner or middle ear in individuals as they grow older.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders)

About Age-Related Hearing Loss (Presbycusis)

Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults.

Approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor's advice, respond to warnings, and hear phones, doorbells, and smoke alarms. Hearing loss can also make it hard to enjoy talking with family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation.

Age-related hearing loss most often occurs in both ears, affecting them equally. Because the loss is gradual, if you have age-related hearing loss you may not realize that you've lost some of your ability to hear....Read more about Age-Related Hearing Loss NIH - National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Antiviral drugs for sudden hearing loss (without known cause)

Idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (ISSHL) is sudden loss of hearing where clinical assessment has failed to reveal a cause. Patients may also suffer from additional symptoms such as tinnitus (a background ringing noise), together with dizziness and a sensation of fullness in the ear. Prompt investigation is essential to identify and treat the hearing impairment. In a large proportion of patients, however, no cause can be found.

Hearing aids for tinnitus in people with hearing loss

Tinnitus describes 'ringing', 'whooshing' or 'hissing' sounds that are heard in the absence of any corresponding external sound. About 10% of people experience tinnitus and for some it has a significant negative impact on their quality of life. Tinnitus is commonly associated with some form of hearing loss and is possibly the result of hearing loss‐related changes in brain activity. It is logical to think, therefore, that providing people who have hearing loss and tinnitus with a hearing aid will not only improve their ability to hear sound but will also reduce their tinnitus symptoms. Hearing aids increase the volume at which people hear external sounds so this may help mask or cover up the tinnitus sound. They also improve communication, which may reduce the symptoms often associated with tinnitus such as stress or anxiety. Hearing aids may also improve tinnitus symptoms by reducing or reversing abnormal types of nerve cell activity that are thought to be related to tinnitus. The purpose of this review is to evaluate the evidence from high‐quality clinical trials that try to work out the effects hearing aids have on people's tinnitus. We particularly wanted to look at how bothersome their tinnitus is, how depressed or anxious tinnitus patients are and whether hearing aid use has an effect on patterns of brain activity thought to be associated with tinnitus.

Screening for Hearing Loss in Adults Ages 50 Years and Older: A Review of the Evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force [Internet]

Hearing loss is common in older adults. Screening could identify untreated hearing loss and lead to interventions to improve hearing-related function and quality of life.

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Summaries for consumers

Hearing loss and deafness: Normal hearing and impaired hearing

The actual organ of hearing is the cochlea in the inner ear. The cochlea receives sound waves and passes them on to the brain. This works smoothly in people with normal hearing. The ears receive sound waves and change them into signals which are sent along nerves to the brain. The brain then analyzes the signals, recognizes them as sounds and interprets them – for instance, as soft music, loud honking or human voices.Sound waves are created when an object moves, for example when a guitar string or speaker cone vibrates. Whether we hear a sound depends both on the power of the sound (“sound level” or “sound pressure level”) as well as on the frequency (or “pitch”) of the vibration.

Hearing loss and deafness: Overview

In Germany and other countries, it is routine practice to test the hearing of newborn babies, to be able to diagnose and treat hearing problems early on. This can help improve language development in hearing-impaired children.

Antiviral drugs for sudden hearing loss (without known cause)

Idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (ISSHL) is sudden loss of hearing where clinical assessment has failed to reveal a cause. Patients may also suffer from additional symptoms such as tinnitus (a background ringing noise), together with dizziness and a sensation of fullness in the ear. Prompt investigation is essential to identify and treat the hearing impairment. In a large proportion of patients, however, no cause can be found.

See all (19)

Terms to know

Deafness
The inability to hear in one or both ears.
Ear
A sense organ needed for the detection of sound and for establishing balance.
Hearing
The perception of sound by the ear.
Hearing Aids
Electronic device that brings amplified sound to the ear. A hearing aid usually consists of a microphone, amplifier, and receiver.
Hearing Loss
A general term for the complete or partial loss of the ability to hear from one or both ears.
Inner Ear
Part of the ear that contains both the organ of hearing (the cochlea) and the organ of balance (the labyrinth).
Middle Ear
Part of the ear that includes the eardrum and three tiny bones of the middle ear, ending at the round window that leads to the inner ear.

More about Age-Related Hearing Loss

Photo of an adult

Also called: Presbyacusia

Other terms to know: See all 7
Deafness, Ear, Hearing

Related articles:
Screening for Hearing Loss in Adults Ages 50 and Over

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