Presbycusis

(Presbyacusis; Age-Related Hearing Loss; Presbyacusia)

Definition

Presbycusis is gradual hearing loss in both ears that commonly occurs as people age. This form of gradual hearing loss can be mild, moderate, or severe. Presbycusis that leads to permanent hearing loss may be referred to as nerve deafness.
The Ear
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Causes

There are several causes of presbycusis including:
  • Gradual degeneration of the inner ear
  • Changes the bone structure of the ear, a condition called otosclerosis
  • Changes in the hearing nerve pathways in the ear leading to the brain
  • Repeated exposure to loud sounds, music, or equipment which can damage the fragile hair cells within the inner ear involved in hearing
  • Hereditary or genetic influences

Risk Factors

Presbycusis is more common in men, and in people over 75 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of presbycusis include:
  • Family history of gradual hearing loss with advancing age
  • Noise exposure
  • Smoking
  • Having certain health conditions, such as:
    • Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or other circulatory problems
    • Diabetes
    • Otosclerosis
    • Thyroid diseases
    • Trauma
    • Vestibular schwannoma
    • Infection
    • Paget disease of bone

Symptoms

Presbycusis may cause:
  • Noticeable loss of hearing of higher-pitched sounds, such as female voices, telephone ringing, or bird calls
  • Sounds that appear less clear and sharp
  • Difficulty understanding conversations, particularly in noisy places or while speaking on the telephone
  • Ringing in one or both ears—tinnitus
  • Background sounds appear overly loud or bothersome
  • Ear fullness with or without vertigo
With presbycusis, hearing loss is usually very gradual, affecting both ears equally.

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