Prevent Presbycusis

Age-related Hearing Problems


By Mary Treacy

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"Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak." - Epictetus

What is Presbycusis?

Age-related hearing loss is call presbycusis It occurs gradually  in most individuals as they age. . An estimated 40-50 percent of over 75-year-olds olds have some degree of hearing loss.

One of the most common causes of loss of hearing is age-related hearing loss or presbycusis. If you are over 60 there is a 30 percent chance that you suffer from hearing loss, especially if you are a male. If you are over 75 you have a 50 percent chance that your hearing is affected.

Presbycusis is caused by changes to the inner ear caused by regularly being exposed to loud noise, diet, smoking, and by health conditions and certain medications.
I Can't Hear You!!

Age-related hearing loss also hereditary, so if your parents were hard of hearing in their later years, chances are you might also have problems with hearing as you age.

Baby boomers have been harder hit than previous generations as they are the first generation that have been subjected to rock music and certain environmental noise which did not exist previously. These factors mean that future generations will doubtlessly suffer from age-related hearing loss even more than baby boomers, as many of today’s youth have been raised on loud music. Worse, much of this is fed directly into their ears at high volume, through headphones and the the use of MP3 players, etc.

The problem is further complicated with baby boomers because, as this generation joins the ranks of the over 50 brigade, they refuse to accept that aging can effect them and too many are denying the signs.

Symptoms of presbycusis

The first hearing difficulties to be noticed by an individual who begins to develop presbycusis usually concern high frequency sounds. Female voices are usually harder to hear than male ones. The person might not notice the trilling of a bird, for example, but will be able to hear roadworks or the sound of a passing bus. They may have difficulties in hearing the difference between words with the softer consonants f, g, s, t, and z. Following a conversation might become difficult and speech may sound muffled, especially when there is background noise or the acoustics are not the best. Problems such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) can complicate these problems.

Accepting aging is harder for some people than others and those that do find it hard might refuse to accept that their hearing is deteriorating. If the problem is diagnosed these people might also be reluctant to ask for help or to wear a hearing aid. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that we are aging and that hearing problems might occur as a result, if we are to prevent presbycusis or to treat the condition if we become affected.

This is very important because the communication problems caused by hearing loss can lead to misunderstandings and disagreements. Friends and family often lose patience with someone when this person continually misunderstands what has been said to them or when they constantly have to repeat themselves, due to this person's disability. As a result, people with presbycusis often begin to shun situations where they are forced to interact with others. This voluntary isolation can lead to depression, further adding to the difficulties experienced by sufferers. Worse still, others might not realize that the person has hearing difficulties and doesn’t hear what they are saying, but believe s/he doesn't understand because s/he is confused and mistakenly think that the person has dementia or has mental issues

Finding Solutions

Presbycusis is often caused by sensorineural hearing disorder, commonly caused by gradual changes in the inner ear.

Have you noticed in recent years that you are not following conversations, can’t hear when there is background noise or when the acoustics are bad?

Are you having problems following along in meetings or understanding what is said when someone is talking quietly?

Another reason for concern is if you can’t hear the TV unless it is turned up so loud the neighbors complain.

You should regard all these symptoms as warning signs that you may be developing sensorineural hearing disorder which may be caused by changes to the inner ear due to aging.

All of these situations require action. You are advised to visit your doctor and possibly get a referral to see a specialist after he has ruled out possibilities such as too much earwax or an ear infection.

And whether or not you are experiencing problems protect your ears by turning down the volume on your stereo and especially when listening to music or other sound using earphones. Make sure that you wear earplugs when you are exposed to loud music, drilling, airplane engines and other loud noises.

Refusing to wear a hearing aid will not make you appear younger. In fact it might make people mistake you for a doddering old fool or worse – someone who is losing their mental edge. Remember that medical science is continually making advances and the latest appliances work better and are more discreet than those that our parents and grandparents had to wear.

Prevent presbycusis by protecting your ears when subjected to loud noises that you can't avoid and don't turn up the volume if you are using earphones. This way you will protect your hearing capital for as long as possible.


Author of this article, Mary Treacy, Contributing Editor Mary Treacy is the founder and contributing editor of age-well.org. She has over thirty years of experience working with non-profit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), mainly business associations, and is an experienced writer in many sectors including co-operatives, agriculture, commmerce, housing, insurance, banking and health. You can find her on Google + and Twitter.


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