Many of us will ultimately have to deal with hearing loss someday. This is a very common problem among senior citizens. Presbycusis is a sensorineural hearing loss that is common with aging. Sensorineural hearing loss happens when there is trauma in the inner ear. It is a gradual loss of the ability to hear, and it usually affects both ears equally.
How Does Hearing Work?
To understand the reasons behind presbycusis, we must first understand how we listen. First, sound waves enter the outer ear and pass through the ear canal to the eardrum. The tympanic membrane vibrates and transmits these vibrations to the middle ear. The bones of the middle ear transmit these vibrations to the fluid in the cochlea of the inner ear. The vibration causes fluid fluctuations and affects the hair cells or sensory cells there. When hair cells move up and down, they collide with adjacent structures, triggering the formation of electrical signals. The auditory nerve then sends these electrical signals to the brain, where it recognizes and interprets sounds.
Causes of Presbycusis
Growing older and hearing loss associated with exposure to loud noises are the most probable causes. Over time, the hair cells in the inner ear disappear, which means that less information can be transmitted. Over time, with age or due to prolonged exposure to damaging loud noises, this situation will gradually develop. In rare cases, the middle ear or nerve pathways can be damaged, causing hearing loss or the auditory nerve can be damaged, interrupting the flow of signals to the brain. Finally, presbycusis can be caused by changes in the blood supply to the ears or by the side effects of certain medications.
The main symptom of presbycusis is hearing loss, but specifically, what effect does this have on someone? High-pitched noise is usually the first to disappear. A person may be experiencing hearing loss without even realizing it since the change is gradual. They may begin to speak louder than a normal person or have difficulty distinguishing speech from background noise. Deeper tones are easier to hear than higher tones. They may also feel a ringing sensation in their ears. Over time, this can affect a person’s quality of life.
Treatment of Presbycusis
The hearing health professional will base your treatment program on:
- Your age, general health and medical history
- The degree of the disease
- Your tolerance to specific medications, procedures or therapies
Presbycusis treatment options may include the following:
- Avoid loud noises and reduce noise exposure
- Wear earplugs or special liquid-filled earmuffs to prevent further damage to hearing
- Speechreading training using visual cues to determine what is said
- Hearing aids
What Is a Hearing Aid?
An electronic hearing aid device that amplifies and changes sounds. The sound is received through a microphone and converted into sound waves. These sound waves then convert to electrical signals.
Anyone who can improve their hearing loss with a hearing aid can benefit from these devices. The recommendation of the type of hearing aid is dependent on various factors.