Will everyone eventually develop hearing loss? A guide to Presbycusis

Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) affects one out of every three adults over 65 and nearly half of those over 75. Hearing loss is a common side effect of aging since many of our systems wear out over time. However, determining when that hearing loss occurs can be difficult.


Will everyone eventually develop hearing loss? A guide to Presbycusis

Many over the age of 65 will tell you that Presbycusis affects them or are on the lookout for signs. Of course, they'll probably refer to this problem as "age-related hearing loss," which is a far more generally used term.

Presbycusis affects one out of every three adults over 65 and nearly half of those over 75. Hearing loss is a common side effect of aging since many of our systems wear out over time. However, determining when that hearing loss occurs can be difficult.

Presbycusis: Hearing loss caused by age

Presbycusis is a type of sensorineural hearing loss. The other type of hearing loss is conductive hearing loss, which affects both the outer and middle ear.

Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear structures. There are thousands of microscopic hair cells found deep inside your inner ear. These cells are in charge of converting sound waves into neural signals, which are then sent to your brain to be recognized as sound.

Inner ear hair cells degrade and do not regenerate because of the natural aging process. These inner ear hair cells no longer function properly. As a result, sound impulses may become jumbled and not reach the brain in a timely and accurate manner.

Presbycusis can be pretty harmful to your general health and well-being if left untreated for a long time.

What happens if Presbycusis is left untreated?

Untreated Presbycusis makes communication difficult, and as a result, people avoid social situations in which they must converse and engage with friends and loved ones. This social isolation, especially in older persons, may raise the risk of dementia over time.

While it may not appear that your social life, cognitive talents, and hearing abilities have much in common, they are all related. According to research from Johns Hopkins University, people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to acquire dementia due to the cognitive load required by the brain to make sense of messy sound signals. As a result of the increased cognitive load, the brain's emphasis on other activities is diverted, and people may experience concentration and memory problems and diminished cognitive ability.

There is also a more immediate safety risk with hearing loss.

The signs of hearing loss

Hearing loss manifests itself in subtle ways, and as a condition, it progresses slowly over time. Here are the most common signs:

  • Muffled speech
  • Trouble understanding what people are saying in a group setting
  • Reduced ability to hear sounds from both sides
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

When you're experiencing these symptoms, it's important to have them evaluated by an audiologist so they can identify the cause and recommend treatment options.

Isn't hearing loss just an unavoidable part of getting older?

Hearing loss is indeed more common as we age. But hearing loss isn't just a natural part of aging — it's usually caused by exposure to loud noise over time. Almost all hearing loss that people over 50 experience is due to noise.

Many people believe that they will remain healthy as they age and that if they are not experiencing any problems with their hearing, then their hearing must be fine. Unfortunately, by the time most people notice a change in their hearing, significant damage has already been done to the delicate hair cells in the inner ear that allow us to hear.

For this reason, audiologists recommend hearing checks for everyone over 50 (or sooner if you work or play in noisy environments). Based on your case history, your hearing professional may be able to help determine whether your hearing loss is due to normal aging or something else — like noise exposure — which may be preventable.

Though a hearing loss is less likely to be discovered at this time, it's still crucial to maintain track of your hearing abilities and examine your hearing health every year.

Hearing loss usually occurs gradually, and we learn to alter our actions to compensate for it. As a result, many people are unaware that they have hearing loss until too late. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, people wait an average of seven years from when they first notice irregularities in their hearing to seek treatment for hearing loss. You'll be more likely to enjoy a successful treatment program if you get an annual hearing test, substantially impacting your general health and well-being.

Hearing tests are non-invasive, painless, and quick. There's no excuse to suffer from untreated hearing loss as you become older. Contact Silicon Valley Hearing today to book a hearing test.

Marni Novick, Audiologist in Los Gatos, CA

Dr. Marni Novick

Founder & Audiologist

Marni Novick, AuD, is founder of Silicon Valley Hearing, Inc., which opened its doors in 2014, with the promise of delivering honest and affordable hearing health care, along with exceptional customer service to her valued patients.

About Dr. Novick

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