Presbycusis is age related loss of hearing that occurs in most people as they grow old. It is quite common to develop loss of hearing as one gets older. Around 50-60% of people of age group 75-85 develop hearing loss. Usually they have difficulty in hearing high pitched sounds. Old aged people can have the ability to hear low pitched sounds like chirping of a bird but they have problems in hearing loud noise. This condition is known as presbycusis. A change that happens in the inner ear is the main cause for this problem. Sometimes it can be due to defective nerve pathways. People with this problem may not realize that they have developed partial loss of hearing since this process happens gradually.
Some of the common signs of presbycusis are difficulty in hearing the voice and understanding the speech. The sounds seem less clear for aged people and this is more particular for high pitched sounds. They feel that speech of others is often slurred. With more background noise aged people have little understanding of speech. There will be roaring noise in their ears or hissing sound which is described as tinnitus. It is difficult to understand a woman’s voice with high pitch when compared with that of a man’s voice. For people affected with this problem certain sounds will be very louder than original tone.
Loss of hearing in presbycusis is caused by disorders in the auditory nerve present in the inner ear. It is described as sensorineural disorder which happens as gradual changes or loss of hearing. Several factors like hearing repeated noise of traffic and working in noisy environment can cause these changes causing sensorineural loss of hearing. There will be loss of sensory receptors present in the inner ear due to aging process. Sometimes underlying medical issues and intake of certain medications like aspirin (for long) can cause this problem. It is believed to be caused due to hereditary factors.
If the blood supply to the inner ear is temporarily cut off due to heightened blood pressure, or due to diabetes or circulatory problems it can cause presbycusis. Any abnormalities in the outer ear or middle ear can cause loss of hearing. If the tiny bones present in the middle ear are not functioning properly it may not be able to receive sound waves properly and convey it to the inner ear.
Your ENT specialist can identify the loss of hearing by obvious symptoms. He may use special instrument to check the condition of inner ear to ascertain presbycusis.
Who are at risk?
Obviously aged people are prone to get hearing loss. It can occur due to genetics since some people will have predisposition of genes for loss of hearing. People working in heavy noisy atmosphere have increased chance for getting presbycusis resulting in loss of hearing. Having heart disease and high blood pressure can affect the hearing capacity of a person to some extent. Smoking is another risk factor.
It is easier to prevent or postpone presbycusis than to treat it. You should be aware of the potential noise producing machineries in the environment and use protective ear plugs. Exposing oneself to loud noise at workplace can cause gradual damage and los of hearing. You can avoid loud noise producing atmosphere and reduce the amount of time you are exposed to such noises. For instance you should know about the effects caused by damaging noises like firearms, lawn mowers, and snowmobiles and ensure that you are fully protected from hearing such noises.
Hearing aids are effective to manage loss of hearing caused by presbycusis. Plenty of listening devices can enhance the hearing ability in particular situation. You can use built in amplifier or FM systems for getting clear sounds. Such people can take training in reading the lip movements using visual cues to understand what others are speaking.
Hearing aid is not selected randomly for aged people. Professionals from audiology and ear, nose and throat department will work together for evaluating the intensity of hearing loss and select appropriate device. Audiologist will do complete evaluation of hearing to suggest right device. Further the person will be counseled how to use the device and in what aspects it will contribute for improved hearing.
Lifestyle Changes :
People having presbycusis disorder should face the person who is talking to him so that he can read his face. While conversing with others it is better to turn off the television or radio you are listening. There is nothing wrong in communicating the person about your hearing loss so that he will not use high pitched sounds. When dining in restaurants you can avoid sitting in high conversation areas or stay away from crowded place.