Presbycusis is the gradual loss of hearing that occurs as people age. It is a common disorder associated with aging. One in three older adults over age 65 has hearing loss. About half of the people over age 75 have hearing loss. Presbycusis usually occurs gradually and typically in both ears equally.

Symptoms of Presbycusis

Each person may experience presbycusis differently, but common symptoms may include the following:

  • Other people’s voices sound mumbled or slurred
  • High-pitched sounds, such as "s" or "th," are hard to distinguish
  • Conversations are difficult to understand, particularly when there is background noise
  • Men's voices are easier to hear than women's
  • Some sounds seem overly loud and annoying
  • Tinnitus (ringing) may occur in one or both ears

The symptoms of presbycusis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Causes of Presbycusis

There may be many causes for presbycusis, but it most commonly occurs because of age-related changes in the following locations:

  • Within the inner ear (most common)
  • Within the middle ear
  • Along the nerve pathways to the brain

Other risk factors for presbycusis include the following:

  • Collective effects of environmental noises
  • Loss of hair cells that sense sound in the inner ear
  • Hereditary factors
  • Aging
  • Various health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes
  • Side effects of some medications, such as aspirin and certain antibiotics

Diagnosing Presbycusis

To diagnose presbycusis, your doctor may use several tests, including the following:

  • Audiometry exam: This hearing test checks how much hearing loss there is by measuring your response to sounds of various tones and intensities.
  • Otoscope: This instrument uses a light to view the ear canal.

Treatment for Presbycusis

Your doctor will talk with you to determine the best treatment plan, considering factors such as age, overall health, medical history, the extent of your hearing loss, and your tolerance for various therapies or devices.

Treatment options for presbycusis may include:

  • Avoiding loud noises and reducing noise exposure
  • Ear plugs or special fluid-filled earmuffs (to prevent further damage to hearing)
  • Hearing aid(s)
  • Assistive devices, such as telephone amplifiers
  • Training in speech reading (using visual cues to determine what is being said)

Why Choose Columbia

Our team of physicians and audiologists understands the profound impact that hearing loss can have on our patients’ daily lives. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality of care as quickly and conveniently as possible. Using the best available technologies and therapies, our specialists are skilled in helping you identify hearing loss progression, make the most of hearing aids and other assistive devices, and cope with the impacts presbycusis will have on your daily life.