Reviewed by Dr. Porter on April 25, 2022
Do you turn up the volume when you watch TV? Do you constantly ask others to repeat themselves or to speak up?
If your answer to these questions is in the affirmative, you are not alone. Ae-related hearing loss, called presbycusis, affects about 25 to 30 percent of people aged 65 to 74 and 40 to 50 percent of people aged 75 to 84.
The exact age at which age-related hearing loss sets in, however, varies from person to person and depends on multiple risk factors.
Fortunately, there are specific risky behaviors that you can avoid that may slow down your loss of hearing.
What causes age-related hearing loss?
Science has not yet revealed the exact mechanism of age-related hearing loss. Anatomical changes related to aging can occur throughout the auditory system.
Sometimes the problem is the inner ear’s equivalent of hair loss. Sensory hair cells and the tissue that support them atrophies in a part of the ear known as the organ of Corti.
This damage starts at the most interior part of this organ and spreads outward. The greater the damage, the harder it is to hear high pitches.
People who have this condition retain the ability to understand speech.
In other cases, age-related hearing loss results from deterioration of the nerve connections between the ears and the brain. Neurons die as we get older.
By the age of ninety, 90 percent of the neurons connecting the ears to the brain may be dysfunctional. When this is the cause of age-related hearing loss, the ability to hear high pitches is retained, but there may be problems understanding speech.
Age-related hearing loss can be a metabolic problem. A part of the ear called the stria vascularis provides nutrients and electrolytes to the ear.
When this tissue atrophies, the ability to hear low-frequency pitches is affected. People who have this kind of hearing loss will still understand speech.
And there is a kind of age-related hearing loss that results from stiffening of the lining of the cochlea, the twisting and turning part of the inner ear.
What you can do to slow down the process of age-related hearing loss
There are also genetic factors that affect hearing loss. Usually, there isn’t just one cause of age-related hearing loss, but there are a number of modifiable risk factors that affect how soon it may occur.
Wear hearing protection whenever you may be exposed to loud noises. Sports shooters who don’t use hearing protection can develop age-related hearing loss as early as age 20.
If you shoot trap and skeet, or if you do a lot of hunting, you should put on hearing protection before you pick up a gun.
Anyone who works around jet aircraft, in a machine shop, with power tools, or in a job that requires the use of explosives needs to get into the habit of using earplugs and earmuffs.
People who spend their workdays in loud, noisy environments lose their hearing faster than people who don’t.
Diabetes is another factor in age-related hearing loss. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can result in stiffening of the cochlea and slow loss of hearing.
Scuba divers and skydivers can rack up a history of eardrum injuries that cause early-onset hearing loss.
When do you need to come in to have your hearing evaluated?
Some of the signs that you need to have your hearing evaluated are:
- Needing to turn up the TV or not being able to understand conversations on the phone.
- Understanding deep voices but not high-pitched voices.
- Hearing sounds but not understanding words.
Clicking, ringing, buzzing, or blowing sounds in one or both ears.
And everyone should make an appointment to get their hearing checked when they turn 50.
Even if you don’t have a serious hearing problem yet, a hearing assessment at age 50 gives your doctor a baseline for evaluating future changes.
Many people who can benefit from the latest hearing aids don’t realize how much better their lives can be until they try them.
Harbor Audiology has a full range of treatments for every hearing challenge.
Harbor Audiology is here to help. We offer regular office hours plus evening and Saturday appointments.
We work with all insurance companies and the VA.
Don’t let an age-related hearing problem hold you back from enjoying your life.
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Categorised in: Hearing Loss