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Age-related hearing impairment - also known as presbycusis - is a decrease in hearing ability as you get older. It is the most common type of sensorineural hearing loss, affecting around 40% of people aged 50 and over.

This type of loss is caused by wear and tear to the hair cells in the inner ear, or the nerve pathways themselves. In the majority of cases, this type of hearing loss affects both of ears.

What are the signs of age-related hearing loss?

In the early stages of presbycusis you may find it difficult to hear high-frequency sounds. Speech falls into this category so understanding spoken word becomes more challenging as time goes on, especially in busy environments with a lot of background noise. This type of hearing loss happens slowly, so it can take time to realise you are not hearing as well as you used to.

Over time, presbycusis will start to impact other frequencies as well. Identifying where a sound is coming from and recognising its source can become difficult. You may also experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, and problems with your balance.

Risk factors

A family history of presbycusis may increase your risk. Environmental and lifestyle factors can also have an impact. Long-term exposure to loud noise in the workplace for instance, can be very damaging to your auditory system.
 

The impact of hearing loss

Age-related hearing loss can take a toll on your quality of life. Often, when people realise the extent of their hearing loss, they become extremely discouraged and more reluctant to socialise. Sadly, this means things like isolation and loneliness are common consequences of hearing troubles.
 
It’s not easy to face the reality of not being able to hear, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. The best thing you can do is visit a hearingcare professional and get your hearing assessed. A Boots audiologist can determine the extent of your hearing loss and advise you on the best form of treatment.

What can help age-related hearing loss?

Millions of people with age-related hearing loss use hearing aids every day with great success. Book an appointment at Boots and we will be able to talk you through the kinds of solutions we offer and the many benefits of today’s fantastic technology.

Frequently asked questions

What causes age-related hearing loss?
What causes age-related hearing loss?
Even though it may be tempting to blame your declining hearing ability on aging alone, there is more to the equation than that. Although scientists do not entirely understand the exact causes of the condition, many factors are likely to contribute to the hearing loss we encounter as we age. They aren't sure if the problem is in the inner ear, middle ear or in the outer ear.

Doctors believe that presbycusis is caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors. Many experts associate the development of age-related hearing loss with changes in the inner ear. In the inner ear is where sound waves are converted to nerve impulses.
 
Loss of hair cells in the Cochlea
The loss of nerve hair cells in the Cochlea is often the primary cause of the condition. The Cochlea is the organ that senses sound. The cochlear nerve's (also called auditory nerve) job is to carry auditory sensory information from the cochlea directly to the brain. A lifetime of exposure to noise can damage these sensitive nerve hair cells.
 
Changes in the eardrum
Other theories suggest that instead of the inner ear, changes in the eardrum are at the root of the problem. These are all theories, not proven facts. The truth is, the medical community is unsure of the exact cause. Most likely, it is the combination of various factors that create the hearing loss as we get older.
Do genetics affect hearing loss?
Genes likely play a role too. A family history of presbycusis may increase your risks. Environmental and lifestyle factors have also been associated with age-related hearing loss.
How common is age-related hearing loss?
You are not alone with your problem of presbycusis. It is actually one of the most prevalent health conditions afflicting older adults. Millions of people worldwide are affected.

For example, in the United States, 50% of people over 65 have some degree of hearing loss. The ratio of hearing impairment amongst people over 85 is even higher, with an estimated 80% affected by the problem. These statistics explain why, according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, there are over 28 million people in the U.S. who could benefit from wearing hearing aids.

In the UK, according to AgeUK 40% of people over 50 have some form of hearing loss. 
If you think that your hearing has gradually gotten worse over the years, the best thing to do is to get your hearing checked. You can do that by making an appointment to see a hearing health professional, such as an audiologist.

Based on your hearing test results, your audiologist will be able to determine the extent of the damage in each ear. Your hearing professional can work with you to recommend the best treatment options for you. Hearing aids have been used with great success as a solution for age-associated hearing loss. You will be able to ask questions about the various options and discuss the benefits of getting a hearing device.
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