Age-related hearing loss

Alternative Names

Hearing loss – age related; Presbycusis

Definition of Age-related hearing loss

Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is the slow loss of hearing that occurs as people get older.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Tiny hairs inside your ear help you hear. They pick up sound waves and change them into the nerve signals that the brain interprets as sound. Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs inside the ear are damaged or die. The hair cells do not regrow, so most hearing loss is permanent.

Symptoms

The loss of hearing occurs slowly over time. It is most difficult to hear high-frequency sounds, such as someone talking. As hearing gets worse, it may become difficult to hear sounds at lower pitches.

Signs and tests

A complete physical exam is performed to rule out medical conditions that can cause hearing loss. The health care provider will use an instrument called an otoscope to look in your ears. Sometimes, wax can block the ear canals and cause hearing loss.

Treatment

There is no known cure for age-related hearing loss. Treatment is focused on improving your everyday function. The following may be helpful:

Expectations (prognosis)

Age-related hearing loss is progressive, which means it slowly gets worse. The hearing loss is permanent.

Review

Michael Langan, M.D. Department of Geriatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 12/13/2010

Ear anatomy

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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