Dallas Ear Institute
7777 Forest Lane, Suite A-103, Dallas, TX 75230 | Phone: (972) 566-7600 | Fax: (972) 566-6560 | www.dallasear.com

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Hearing Loss - Age Related

Presbycusis is a gradual, high-frequency hearing loss in both ears due to the aging progression. Presbycusis is the most common cause of hearing loss in the Unites States. Like other organ systems in the body, the inner ear undergoes degenerative changes as we age. Oftentimes, hearing loss can go unnoticed by the affected individual but is very evident to family and friends. Individuals with presbycusis may notice an increased difficulty hearing high-pitched tones, including women’s and children’s voices, ringing of the telephone, etc. Hearing loss can also be associated with symptoms such as ear fullness and tinnitus (ringing in ears).

Studies have shown that there are genetic and environmental influences that put patients at an increased risk for developing a hearing loss. A history of excessive noise exposure is a risk factor for presbycusis. Military or recreational use of firearms, listening to loud music, or loud work environments in factories or with heavy machinery can have a significant impact on hearing. In addition to noise exposure, hearing loss can also be associated with vascular diseases (hypertension, hyperlipidemia), metabolic disease (diabetes), and ototoxic exposure (some cancer treatments, aminoglycoside antibiotics).

Effects of Hearing loss on communication:

Individuals with presbycusis, or age related hearing loss, may experience difficulty understanding conversations because sounds can be less clear. Older individuals experience reduced speech discrimination (quality of sound) than younger adults with similar pure tone audiograms. There are two reasons for the inability to actively participate in conversations, including problems with audibility (ability to hear the sound) and/or a problem with processing and understanding sound. Older patients will experience an even more difficult time with both hearing and the quality of sound with competing background noise. Untreated hearing loss can lead to anxiety and depression. Recent studies have even linked hearing loss to dementia.

Work up:

Presbycusis is diagnosed with pure tone audiometry and word recognition testing. There is usually a decrease in the high frequency tones with a decrease in speech discrimination.

Treatment Options:

Age related hearing loss is a chronic medical condition and there are several options to help improve hearing and restore communication. These options include: hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and cochlear implants. Assistive listening devices provide extra hearing benefit when talking on the phone, in meetings, and in noisy backgrounds. There are many types of hearing aids and these devices can be very beneficial for individuals with hearing loss that significantly impacts their life. Cochlear implants are reserved for patients with severe to profound hearing loss that do not benefit from the use of hearing aids. Regardless of treatment, hearing loss should be monitored every 6-12 months to assess for progression.

Should I wear a hearing aid?

It should be up to the individual with the hearing loss and their family members as to whether or not they purchase hearing aids. Patients should not expect hearing aids to “cure” their hearing loss; the goal of hearing aids is to help amplify the sounds that the person is missing and improve their ability to communicate. Hearing aids have 3 parts in their structure:

  • Microphone, to pick up the sound
  • Amplifier, to make the sound louder
  • Speaker, to help deliver sounds to the inner ear

When a patient is ready to purchase a hearing aid, they should see an audiologist to discuss which hearing device is best for their individual hearing loss and to be fitted properly.

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Dallas Ear Institute
7777 Forest Lane, Suite A-103, Dallas, TX 75230 | Phone: (972) 566-7600 | Fax: (972) 566-6560 | www.dallasear.com