There is a 1/3 chance you have Presbycusis if you are an American more than 65 years old. While that may seem like an alarmingly high number, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Presbycusis is, essentially, age-related hearing loss, which creeps up on us until we start annoying people by asking ‘what’s that’. The origin of the term is the Greek word presbys (meaning old) and akousis (meaning hearing).
Let’s dive into exactly what it is and the impact it can cause.
How Do I Know I Have Presbycusis Age-Related Hearing Loss?
- Speech and other sounds are muted as if our ears are partly blocked
- We can’t understand what other people are saying, especially in a crowd
- We can’t distinguish between consonants like ‘b’ and ‘p’
- We constantly ask people to speak up as if they were television volumes
However, and this is the big problem, most people with good hearing simply do not understand deafness. Many people with Presbycusis withdraw from sharing conversations as their social circle shrinks.
Broad Principles About How Hearing Works
There are three parts to our hearing system. Working from the outside in, these are our outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. When we are in the presence of sound three things happen:
- Sounds waves travel down our ear canal to our ear drum, which they cause it to vibrate.
- Three small bones in our middle ear increase the intensity of those sound waves.
- These amplified vibrations enter the snail-shaped cochlea inner ear where tiny hairs translate them to electrical signals.
Those electrical signals travel along nerves to our central processing system (brain) that presents them to us as sounds.
What Can Go Wrong and Cause Presbycusis?
Age-related hearing loss occurs in the inner ear. The passing of the years - and especially the repeated presence of loud noise – can damage the delicate cochlea hairs, or the nerves carrying their electrical signals to the brain. The first sign of this may be difficulty interpreting high-pitched speech.
Other forms of hearing loss may originate in the outer, middle and inner ear, but that’s outside the scope of this article. Mayo Clinic includes ear wax build-up, ear infections, and ruptured eardrums as conditions requiring medical attention.
Is There Anyway to Prevent Age-Related Hearing Loss?
Aging is a given if we are rewarded with a long life. The damage begins when we are young and carefree, but try warning a youngster about Presbycusis. The following are things can mention if they are in a mood to listen:
- They may have a genetic mutation that makes their hearing system more sensitive, in which case they should take extra care.
- Loud noises can damage the hair cells in their cochlea spirals. They should put the original silencer back on the motorbike, and stay away from snowmobiling, jet skiing, and loud thumping music at parties.
- The job they choose can make things worse and cause permanent hearing loss if they work in a noisy environment. Their employer must provide hearing protection but they must wear it properly.
- Some medications can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss - and even passing tinnitus. Treatments approved by Food and Drug Administration include leaflets.
When Is It Too Late to Stop Hearing Damage?
We probably would not have listened to that advice either when we were young. The result can be hard to live with. Some us may slip into depression as our friends seem to drift away.
Modern hearing aids can chase away feelings of isolation and even improve our cognitive performance. But before we get to that, how can we prevent our Presbycusis from getting worse? Yes, there are things we can still do:
- Stay away from noisy situations. If these are at work, insist on wearing proper hearing protection.
- Keep headphone volume at the lowest level we can hear clearly. That way we should not damage our hearing further.
- Have a regular hearing check-up if we work in a noisy environment, or our hearing has a sudden step-change either way.
How to Manage the Situation With Hearing Aids
We can compare Presbycusis to somebody turning down the volume, if someone asks. We could tell them to speak up, but then that would sound like shouting to people without hearing loss.
Hearing aids increase the volume of sound before it enters our ear canal, and we can manually tune them to the volume that suits us best. It’s a whole new world the first time our age-related hearing returns to ‘normal’. That’s normal in the ‘ear of the listener’, and it’s a modern technical miracle!
Would You Like to Try Hearing Aids Now?
Blue Angels Hearing sells easy to use hearing aids over the internet, so you can say goodbye Presbycusis and welcome back hearing. You can return them for a full refund if they are not what you expected, subject to them being in the condition you received.