Presbycusis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Overview

Presbycusis
is the loss of hearing caused by the natural
aging of the auditory system. It is the most common hearing problem in older
people. Presbycusis often occurs in both ears, though not necessarily at the
same time. Generally, people over age 50 are likely to lose some hearing each
year. Because the loss of hearing is so gradual, people with presbycusis may
not realize that their hearing is diminishing. Patients often think that speech
is loud enough, but not clear. It is estimated that one in three people in the
United States between the ages of 65 and 74 have age-related hearing loss, and about
half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

Causes

There
are many factors contributing to presbycusis.

Presbycusis
is most often caused by age-related degeneration of the inner ear or auditory
nerve, especially the loss of nerve hair cells in the cochlea, the organ that
senses sound. It is related to repeated daily exposure to noise. Once these
hair cells are damaged, they do not grow back and the ability to hear is
diminished.

Some
health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can also contribute
to presbycusis.

Use
of medications that are toxic to the sensory cells in the ears, such as some
chemotherapy drugs, is often regarded as a risk factor.

Symptoms

The
main signs and symptoms of presbycusis are as follows:

  • Hearing loss
  • Inability to understand conversations
  • Difficulty hearing higher frequencies
  • Difficulty hearing in noisy situation
  • Difficulty distinguishing certain letters and pronunciations
  • Higher-pitched sounds of speech
  • Tinnitus

Diagnosis

Hearing problems can be serious. When you notice the related symptoms, it is necessary to seek advice from a doctor. To diagnose presbycusis, the doctor will first conduct a complete physical examination and medical history to figure out some common causes of hearing loss. Besides, a hearing test, called audiometry, is done in a sound-treated room to determine the extent of hearing loss. Other procedures, including blood tests, X-rays, CT scans and MRI, may be also ordered to rule out other possible causes of hearing problems.

Treatment

The
common way to treat presbycusis is a hearing aid. There is a wide range of
hearing aids and hearable technologies that can help patients manage hearing
loss better.

Lip reading is another option that helps people with hearing problems to follow conversational speech. People will pay close attention to others when they talk by watching the speaker’s mouth and body movements.

Training in speech-reading can also help to understand better what is being said in conversations.

Cochlear implants are small electronic devices surgically implanted in the inner ear. This method can provide a sense of sound to people who are profoundly deaf or difficult in hearing. If your condition is severe, the doctor may recommend a cochlear implant in one or both ears.

Bone anchored hearing systems are designed to use the body’s natural ability to transfer sound through bone conduction. The sound processor picks up sound, converts it into vibrations, and then relays the vibrations through the skull bone to the inner ear.

Keywords: Presbycusis

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