Age-related hearing loss

Alternative names
Hearing loss - age related; Presbycusis

Definition

Age related hearing loss is a progressive loss of the ability to hear high frequencies, which occurs as people get older.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) involves a progressive loss of hearing, beginning with high-frequency sounds such as speech. It is unknown whether a specific cause such as noise trauma leads to presbycusis, but there appears to be a genetic predisposition.

Age-related hearing loss tends to occur in families. The disorder occurs in about 25% of people aged 65 to 75 and in 70% to 80% of those over age 75.

Symptoms

     
  • Hearing loss       o Progressive       o Beginning with high-frequency sounds  
  • Difficulty understanding speech, especially in a noisy environment

Signs and tests

A physical examination may show wax in the ear that can be a contributing factor. Often the exam is unrevealing. Audiology or other testing determines the extent of hearing loss.

Treatment

There is no known cure for age-related hearing loss. Treatment is focused on functional improvement. Hearing aids, which provide amplification, may help. Developing skills such as lip reading and using visual cues may aid communication, but these may be difficult skills for older people to learn.

Expectations (prognosis)

Age-related hearing loss is progressive. The disorder is not dangerous but leads to increasing difficulty with communication.

Complications
Deafness is a complication. Deafness-related complications include social isolation and the inability to hear fire alarms.

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if hearing loss occurs or worsens.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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