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Presbycusis (Age-Related Hearing Loss)

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

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.

Effectiveness of Cochlear Implants in Adults with Sensorineural Hearing Loss [Internet]

Sensorineural hearing loss is the third leading cause of disability during the adult years, according to the World Health Organization. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent, most commonly occurs gradually, and becomes worse with increasing age with clinical manifestations typically appearing during the fifth and sixth decades. In recent years, cochlear implants have been used in adults with sensorineural hearing loss. Cochlear implants replace the function of hair cells that are no longer able to generate electrical impulses in response to sound. Therefore, these devices may provide a viable alternative to hearing aids among older adults with sensorineural hearing loss as they bypass damaged hair cells by directly transmitting the electrical impulses to the acoustic nerve. Currently, most patients are fitted unilaterally, with some receiving contralateral assistance with a hearing aid when residual low-frequency hearing exists. In recent years, the number of people implanted bilaterally has continued to increase. Therefore, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is interested in an evaluation of recent published literature on the effectiveness of cochlear implantation. After consultation with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and CMS, this technology assessment has been commissioned specifically to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of unilateral cochlear implants and bilateral cochlear implants in adult patients (≥ 18 years of age) with sensorineural hearing loss. The key questions were formulated in consultation with CMS and AHRQ.

Screening adults aged 50 years or older for hearing loss: a review of the evidence for the US preventive services task force

This updated review concluded that the evidence for benefits and harms of screening and treatments for hearing loss was limited and additional research is needed in adults aged 50 years and over in primary care settings. This was a generally well-conducted review and the authors' conclusions appropriately reflect the limitations of the evidence.

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.

Terms to know

The inability to hear in one or both ears.
A sense organ needed for the detection of sound and for establishing balance.
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 Presbycusis

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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