Presbycusis is the most common type of Sensorineural Hearing Loss caused by the natural aging of the auditory system. It occurs gradually and initially affects the ability to hear higher pitched (higher frequency) sounds.
Over time, it can result in individuals being unable to clearly hear sounds at progressively lower frequencies. People with Presbycusis often notice that speech is loud enough, but not clear – as if the talker is mumbling.
Having Presbycusis can result in higher-pitched sounds of speech, such as /s/ and /th/, sounding unclear and indistinct to the listener. This can lead to confusions (e.g. not being about to tell the difference between the words soot and foot), which can impact on an individual’s ability to understand conversations, particularly in noisy situations. This can make communication in bars, cafés, clubs and restaurants extremely difficult if not impossible.
It’s estimated that 30-40% of people over the age of 65 have some from of it.
Causes of Presbycusis
Unlike Noise-induced Hearing Loss, Presbycusis is the cumulative result of the normal aging process on your ears. However, Noise-Induced Hearing Loss can compound the effects of Presbycusis, which can result in the onset of hearing loss earlier in life.
There are many factors that can cause it but most commonly it’s the loss of nerve hair cells in the Cochlea – the organ that senses sound – caused by repeated daily exposure to noise over a lifetime. Pre-existing health conditions and use of some medicines can also contribute to the hearing loss associated with Presbycusis.
There are many ways Presbycusis can be treated and managed. If you think you have it, make an appointment to see a hearing health professional, such as an audiologist or audiometricist, who can test your hearing and work out if you have a hearing loss.
From your hearing test results, an audiologist will then know the specifics of your hearing loss such as which ear is most affected and at what frequencies. The audiologist will use this information to determine what kind of treatment is required to manage your hearing loss, including if you would benefit from a hearing device such as Hearing Aids.
A common way that Presbycusis can be managed is by wearing Hearing Aids, Hearables and by using Assistive Listening Devices technologies. There is an ever increasing range of hearing aid and hearable technologies that can help individuals manage their hearing loss with greater ease.