Most people want to live long, but then many things come with old age. Quite a few changes will occur in your body as you grow older. Cognitive function, physical performance, looks, and so on would not remain the same for most people when they are in their old age. Sadly, hearing loss is one of the changes that some people experience as they age. The loss of hearing due to the natural aging process is known as presbycusis. It happens quite commonly and does not indicate any hidden health issue. It is just one of the health damages caused by aging.
The onset of presbycusis is usually from age 50 upwards. But the statistics of how many people have hearing loss in old age would blow your mind. Do you know that 1 out of every 3 persons above the age of 65 has hearing loss to some degree? By the age of 75, that number rises to 1 out of every 2. This means that approximately half of those who are 75 years old and above have hearing loss. Presbycusis is not the cause in all these cases, but it is the most common reason for the loss of hearing. The condition is not life-threatening in any way but it can greatly affect the quality of your life if you don’t get proper treatment.
Hearing Loss Due To Aging
Aging can cause hearing loss in three different ways.
The first is due to physiologic degeneration, which occurs as a result of the natural aging process. However, this is not the only type of hearing loss that occurs with age.
Intrinsic damage can also occur as you age due to accumulated exposure to noise over the years. The accumulated noise here does not include the kinds of noise that your occupation or job may expose you to. They include noises from music, traffic, radio, television, and other home appliances.
This age-related to loss of hearing has nothing to do with noises. But then, it is different from presbycusis. It is usually due to the extrinsic damage caused by ototoxic drugs, dietary habits, smoking, and certain illnesses like hypertension and diabetes.
Sociocusis and nosocusis can gradually impair your hearing as you age, but they are not caused by the natural aging process.
Sounds with a lower frequency or pitch are not as hard to hear. Examples of such words are words ending in at. This pattern is common to all cases of presbycusis. Anything that deviates from this pattern is not presbycusis.
Women and children generally have a high-pitch voice. So it may be quite more difficult to pick their voices than to pick a man’s voice. Men generally have a low-pitch (deep) voice. The audiogram for presbycusis usually shows a slope that runs down from the left to the right.
How Would You Know If You Have Presbycusis?
Presbycusis is not hard to recognize by a trained professional, thanks to its specific pattern. With presbycusis, it becomes more difficult to hear sounds with a higher frequency or pitch. Examples include words ending in “s”.
The high-pitch/low-pitch pattern is one of the first signs that you may have presbycusis if you are already above 50 years of age. But aside from this, there are a few other symptoms. They are as follows:
- Background noises become quite hard to pick. These include sounds from traffic noise, water waves, bioacoustics (animal noise), extraneous speech, as well as electrical noise generated by refrigerators, motors, air conditioning, etc.
- Certain sounds may seem very loud, whereas they are not. You may become too sensitive to low-pitch sounds such that they become uncomfortable or even painful. If this happens to you, normal voice volume may seem like a loud noise.
- You find it hard to understand what people are saying when you are in noisy environments. For instance, in restaurants or open markets, at parties, etc.
- There may be some difficulty in separating the “s” sound from the “th” sound. Both of them usually would sound alike in your ears.
- Ringing in their ears. In some cases, people with presbycusis may experience ringing in their ears or also known as tinnitus.
- You may find that you have to turn up volumes while watching television or listening to the radio. Others are complaining that the volume is too loud, but it sounds normal in your eras.
- You ask people to “come again” very often when you are in a conversation
- Telephone conversation becomes difficult to sustain because you hardly understand what the person on the other end is saying.
These symptoms can put you in a tight spot and affect your quality of life. But then, you can see your doctor for proper evaluation and treatment. If you see your doctor on time, the situation can be salvaged. Many solutions can be offered, so you won’t have a hard time finding one that suits your lifestyle.
What Can You Do About Presbycusis?
The typical solution to the loss of hearing in old age is to get a hearing aid. But aside from this, you can slow down the progression of presbycusis by making lifestyle adjustments. To start with, a smoke-free environment would do more than you can imagine.
Eating a healthy diet is also very important. Foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins are particularly helpful. As remote as it seems, regular exercise also helps.
More so, the more you engage your brain in, the slower the presbycusis would progress. So you may want to play some brain-training games too.
Loss of hearing due to the natural aging process is known as presbycusis. If you don’t get proper treatment for it, it can lead to permanent deafness and may increase the risk of falls in elderly people. The negative impact it has on the quality of life may also cause or aggravate depression. So if you think you may have presbycusis, book an appointment with your doctor today.