Presbycusis

Presbycusis is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most individuals as they grow older. Hearing loss is a common disorder associated with aging.

What Is Presbycusis?

Presbycusis is the medical term for hearing loss that occurs in older people as they age. It is the most common cause for hearing loss in people aged over 55.

Most people will tend to lose some of their hearing to a greater or lesser extent as they become older. Over half of people over the age of 60 have some degree of hearing loss. The exact cause of presbycusis is not known. The inner ear (cochlea) contains nerve cells that convert sound into nervous impulses which are sent to the brain. It is thought that most people develop presbycusis because these nerve cells don't seem to work as well and they become damaged. For diagrams of the parts of the inner and outer ear, and an explanation of how hearing works, see the separate leaflet called Hearing Problems.

It is probably a number of different things that contribute to this damage and it seems to be part of the ageing process. A number of things have been suggested as possible causes for the damage:

  • Arteriosclerosis - hardening and narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the cochlea, which means that less blood gets through. Heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes may also make the situation worse.

  • Exposure to noise over the years.

  • Exposure to harmful chemicals produced by body cells over the years.

  • Exposure to certain types of medication over the years.

  • Smoking.

  • There may also be some inherited (hereditary) reasons for presbycusis.

When a sufficient number of nerve cells are damaged, this is when you notice hearing loss. Most people do not go completely deaf. The severity of the hearing loss varies from person to person of the same age.

presbycusis and Tinnitus

Certain sounds seem annoying or overly loud. Tinnitus (a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound in one or both ears) may also occur. Because the process of loss is gradual, people who have presbycusis may not realize that their hearing is diminishing.

Tinnitus is the perceived sensation of sound in the absence of acoustic stimulation. Spontaneous idiopathic tinnitus is a significant interdisciplinary therapeutic problem. In elderly patients it most frequently coexists with sensorineural hearing loss. The chief idea of tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) in treatment of chronic tinnitus consists of following strategies: low level and broad band noise surroundings, diversion of the attention to other things and psychological counseling and therapy. The purpose of this study was to verify the benefits and ramifications of tinnitus retraining therapy in elderly patients suffering from chronic tinnitus with sensorineural hearing loss. Methods 30 subjects aged 65-90 years suffering from chronic tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss were questioned about features of the tinnitus using a set of standardized questions. All of them were fitted with modern digital hearing aids and questioned about subjective hearing results after a month of follow-up. Main result 24 of the patients declared to have had considerable improvement in tolerance of the tinnitus. Main conclusion Fitting with hearing aids is an effective way of treatment in the majority of elderly patients with chronic tinnitus. The effectiveness of supplying elderly patients with hearing aids for tinnitus management depended in our group of patients on whether the patient had good speech understanding prior to fitting with hearing aids (speech discrimination score below and above 80%).

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