Most people don't think about their hearing until it starts to decline and they have trouble with it, this is quite common. The decline in hearing resulting from age is called presbycusis and it can affect one ear or both ears simultaneously. There may not be a silver Bullet cure for the conditions but there are effective time treatments if you contact your audiologist. 

What is Presbycusis? 

As we age the tiny hairs in our ears called cilia that carry sound through the tympanic membrane (eardrum) into the cochlea (inner ear) start to die. As they die there are fewer sound carriers and fewer sound waves to translate into electrical signals for the brain. 

It's estimated that one in three adults over the age of 65 has presbycusis, which is defined as the gradual loss of hearing in one or both of the ears. Usually, high pitched sounds such as beeping or ringing are the first things to do, low pitches remain unaffected. 

What causes Presbycusis? 

Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, may have a range of causes, it is not only the death of cilia hairs. Our bodies go through many changes as we age and the ear can be affected in various places – inner, middle, outer, or nerve pathways to the brain. 

Other factors that might contribute to age-related hearing loss include exposure to loud sounds such as music or machines, the loss of cilia through age or damage, congenital factors, and various health conditions. 

What are the symptoms?

If presbycusis is starting to develop in your ears, there may be some signs and symptoms that allow you to identify the process and take steps to treat it early on. You might experience the speech of others as mumbled or slurred, you might also find sounds like S and TH hard to distinguish. 

Other signs and symptoms of presbycusis include difficulty understanding conversations, especially when there is background noise and men's voice being easier to distinguish than women – you may also experience tinnitus. 

How is it diagnosed? 

If you suspect you have presbycusis you will want to visit your health care professional or your audiologist. They will use an instrument called an otoscope – an instrument with a light on the top – to peer into your ear canal and check for signs of damage. 

You might also be subject to an audiogram which is a type of hearing test. You are taken to a soundproof room and given a pair of headphones to wear. A sound is passed through the headphones and you are asked to respond to the sounds you hear. 

How is it treated? 

Presbycusis can be treated in several ways and the treatment your audiologist or health care provider decides on is determined by your age and medical history, your condition, and your preferences for treatment. 

Typically, treatment options for presbycusis include hearing devices of various kinds, assisting devices like amplifiers and speech to text converters, speech-reading training, and techniques for preventing the build-up of wax.