Age-Related Deafness – Is There a Solution?


Have there been times you encountered your aging dad or grandparents finding it difficult to hear what you are trying to tell them? Probably age is catching up? As we age, we tend to experience a number of changes in the way the body functions. One of the changes due to this can be hearing loss. Deafness due to aging is a common condition that impacts many older adults. Almost 1 in 2 adults over the age of 65 years do experience some degree of hearing loss.

What is age-related hearing loss?

Age-related hearing loss is also referred to Presbycusis. Although it is not a serious condition, it can have a significant impact on the quality of life if left untreated.

What causes this?

As mentioned above, age-related hearing loss occurs gradually over time. It is said that changes in the inner ear can cause the condition. These include:

  • changes in blood flow to the ear

  • changes in the structures of the inner ear

  • impairment in the nerves responsible for hearing

  • damage to the tiny hairs in the ear that are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain

  • changes in the way that the brain processes speech and sound

Age-related deafness is also said to be caused by other issues such as diabetes, poor circulation, use of certain medications, continuous exposure to loud noises, family history of hearing loss and smoking.

How does one recognise that he/she has hearing loss?

Symptoms of age-related deafness usually begin with an inability to hear high-pitched sounds. You may notice that you have difficulty hearing children’s voices or voices of women. You may also have difficulty hearing background noises or hearing others speak clearly.

Some other symptoms include the following:

  • certain sounds may seem overly loud

  • difficulty hearing in areas that are noisy

  • ringing in the ears

  • asking people to repeat what they say

  • difficulty hearing the difference between “s” and “th” sounds

  • turning up the volume on the television or radio louder than normal

  • unable to understand conversations over the telephone

It is best to notify your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. They could be signs of other medical conditions and should be investigated by a doctor.

What are the ways to diagnose this condition?

If you have symptoms of age-related deafness, your doctor will diagnose your condition. A full physical exam is usually done to rule out other causes of hearing loss. Your doctor may also look inside your ears using an otoscope.

In case, the doctor is unable to find another cause for your symptoms, you may be diagnosed with age-related hearing loss. Subsequently, your doctor may refer you to a hearing specialist, an audiologist. The audiologist usually performs a hearing test to help determine how much hearing loss has occurred.

How can it be treated?

There is no cure for this condition. If you are diagnosed for this, your doctor will work with you to improve your hearing and quality of life. Your doctor may recommend the following:

  • hearing aids to help you hear better

  • assistive devices, such as telephone amplifiers

  • lessons in sign language or lip reading (in patients with severe hearing loss)

For those with severe hearing loss, your doctor may recommend a cochlear implant. This is a small electronic device that’s surgically implanted into your ear. Cochlear implants can make sounds somewhat louder, but they don’t restore normal hearing.

What Is the Outlook for Someone with this condition?

Age-related deafness is a progressive condition which means the condition will get worse over time. If you lose your hearing, it will be permanent. Even though hearing loss will get worse over time, using assistive devices like hearing aids can surely improve the quality of your life.

Speak to your doctor about the available treatment options. Ask what you can do to minimize the impact of hearing loss on your everyday life. Also, do consider treatment to prevent the depression, anxiety, and social isolation that often occur with this condition.

Can You Prevent Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Honestly, you may not be able prevent age-related deafness. However, there are steps that you can take to prevent the deafness from getting worse:

  • Avoid prolonged/repetitive exposure to loud noises/sounds.

  • Make it a point to wear ear protection in areas where there are loud sounds.

  • People with diabetes must ideally keep their sugar under control.

Seek prompt help from your doctor if you develop symptoms of age-related deafness. As your hearing loss increases, you’re more likely to lose your ability to understand speech. However, you may keep this ability, or minimize the loss, if you seek early treatment.

If you have decided that hearing aid is the way forward but not sure what will suit you, check this out. Bring the hearing aid home, try it for 20 days and see if it works perfectly for you, if not just return it and pay nothing!


Hridya Anand

by Hridya Anand

A biochemist by education who could never put what she studied to good use, finally found GetDoc as a medium to do what she loved - bring information to people using a forum that is dedicated to all things medical. View all articles by Hridya Anand.


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