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What is Presbycusis?

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Presbycusis is hearing loss associated with age. At the age of 65, about 30% of the aging population will have or notice they have hearing loss, and it steadily increases, with at least 40-50% of the aging population having or noticing hearing loss by the time they are 75 years of age.

There is no prevalence in race or sex when it comes to presbycusis. The only prevalence, as previously stated, is that of the aging population. That being said, there are a few other causes that can contribute to the hearing loss. These other risk factors include genetics, noise trauma, ototoxic drugs, atherosclerosis, dietary habits, infections - viral or bacterial, hormones and their levels, immune disorders or diseases, diseases such as diabetes, smoking, and health problems such as hypertension. Another factor could be that of socioeconomic status.

A person may notice they have presbycusis, especially when it comes to speech. Speech seems to be more mumbled or slurred and not clear anymore. High pitched sounds like “s” and “th” are increasingly more difficult to differentiate. Conversations are increasingly more difficult, especially when in louder environments with varying degrees of background noise; a man’s voice is easier to hear than a woman’s in any environment. Certain sounds may become increasingly more distracting or annoying to a person when they were not previously. Tinnitus may also start or become more noticeable.

So what can be done? To be honest, not much can be done overall. The best advice is to decrease your risk of induced hearing loss from loud noise and watch your health. Presbycusis is a sensorineural hearing loss and cannot be fixed. It can be treated, however, with hearing aids and other hearing devices. Depending on the severity, a person may need to learn other ways to cope with their hearing loss such as lip reading or communicating through writing. If you suspect you have presbycusis or if you know or suspects someone may have presbycusis, contact a hearing health professional and schedule an appointment to have a full hearing exam done.