Hearing Issues is a new ongoing series where the MDHearing team goes in-depth on specific ear problems, hearing issues, and hearing aid terminology. We believe knowledge is power, and our aim is to help all our customers better understand their own hearing health. First up: presbycusis.
“What is presbycusis?”
Presbycusis is one of the more common types of hearing loss, often referred to as age-related hearing loss. When an older person complains of hearing issues, this is often the kind they’re talking about. Usually, presbycusis affects the higher pitched sounds first, and if not treated, will start affecting the middle to lower sounds, gradually becoming more noticeable over time.
“What causes this type of hearing loss?”
While it’s a complicated issue, your hearing generally worsens as you get older and the hair cell receptors in your ears that are responsible for transmitting the sound also age. However, the amount of hearing you lose is impacted by outside factors.
Presbycusis can also be complicated by your health; risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking can put you in increased danger of losing your hearing. Even some medicines, like Ototoxic medication, can damage your ears and hearing. If you went to a lot of rock concerts in your youth, your risk of hearing loss may be higher, as hereditary factors are exasperated by noise-induced hearing loss that damages the hair cell receptors in your ear.
“How can I tell if I have presbycusis?”
The tricky thing about this condition is that it’s a very gradual type of hearing loss. You might not be able to notice a big change at first. Too many people sort of notice a change in their hearing, but assume they can “make due for now.” Not only does that ignore the problem, but they’re also in danger of their presbycusis getting worse.
Here are some signs of presbycusis:
- Struggling with high pitches
- Ringing in your ears
- Having trouble hearing those in front of you, especially when there is background noise
- It seems like your friends are mumbling
- Other people’s speech sounds slurred
- Women’s voices and younger voices are especially harder to hear
Ask yourself, are you having trouble hearing higher pitched sounds, like your grandkids’ voices, your phone ringtone, or your microwave’s timer? Do you feel confused and overwhelmed trying to hear conversations in busy restaurants? If so, then you should get your hearing checked.
“How do I get tested for prebycusis?”
The good news is that it’s relatively easy to learn if you have this hearing issue. Hearing clinics and audiologist offices can check for presbycusis and other hearing loss conditions. They can ensure you know the exact state of your hearing health.
First, the audiologist will use an otoscope (that special lighted tool that goes into your ear canal) to check for inflammation. If there is inflammation, that could be a sign of infection and you might be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or possibly be given a prescription or over-the-counter medicine to take care of the issue. The audiologist will also check to see if wax buildup or other blockage is causing your hearing problems — in that case, clearing the blockage should fix the problem.
If inflammation or blockage isn’t the cause, then they can give you a hearing test. Different tones will be played, and you’ll raise your hand or push a button each time you hear them. The test will show which sounds you missed, and the hearing specialist will evaluate which pitches you struggle with the most. If the results of the test (called an audiogram) shows you’re mostly having problems with the higher tones, that is a good indication you have presbycusis.
“Can presbycusis be cured?”
Unfortunately, presbycusis has no cure. Once your hearing is gone, it’s gone for good. That’s why protecting your hearing is so important. Use ear plugs when using mechanical equipment or in loud environments like concerts. Keep your music at a lower volume, especially if you’re using ear buds. If you already have some hearing loss, taking these precautions can help you protect the hearing you still have.
There are plenty of positive life changes you might already be doing that will protect your hearing. Staying active and eating a balanced diet can strengthen your immune system, which can help protect your ears from infection. Everyone knows smoking is bad for your lungs, but it also impairs your circulatory system, which can contribute to hearing problems.
“How is presbycusis treated?”
While some people choose to use personal amplifiers or speech-to-text devices, the most commonly prescribed treatment for presbycusis is getting hearing aids. Hearing aids are comprised of three main parts: microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The amplifier takes the signals picked up by the microphone and filters unwanted sounds, like whistling feedback, wind, and any distracting background noises. This noise filtering is crucial for people with presbycusis who struggle to hear close conversations in noisy spaces.
MDHearing offers advanced hearing aid technology that prioritize voices and higher frequencies. Because we’re our own manufacturer, we’re able to cut out the middleman prices of storefront sellers and pass the savings onto our customers. We believe effective, high-quality hearing aids should be affordable for everyone.
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