Age-related hearing loss

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Age-related hearing loss

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Hearing loss - age related; Presbycusis

Causes

Age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis. 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 - 80% of those over age 75.

Symptoms

The loss of hearing occurs slowly over time. It usually starts with problems hearing high-frequency sounds, such as someone talking. It may be difficult to hear things in noisy areas.

Exams and Tests

Your doctor may find 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.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Age-related hearing loss is progressive, which means it slowly gets worse. The disorder is not dangerous, but it leads to increasing difficulty with communication.

Possible Complications

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

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

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