Presbycusis Counseling and Treatment

Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is one of the most common causes of hearing loss in adults worldwide, accounting for up to 80% of all cases of hearing loss and affecting more than half of the adult population over age 75, most adults over the age of 80, and nearly all adults who are 90 years and above.

Senior male signaling hard of hearing sign
Age-related hearing loss icon

Because presbycusis comes on at a very slow pace in most individuals, most do not address the issue until it becomes a struggle to understand conversations and communicate with family, friends, and co-workers. One of the keys to enjoying better hearing for a longer period of time is to address presbycusis as early as possible.

In order to help those at risk of developing presbycusis get a head start on better hearing, Utah Ear Institute has presbycusis counseling centers in our Bountiful, Tooele, Park City, and West Valley City hearing and balance clinics.

Presbycusis and Its Risk Factors

Age-related hearing loss is the gradual loss of hearing in both ears, affecting your ability to hear high-pitched sounds, such as a phone ringing, the beeping of a microwave, or the voices of women and children, while your ability to hear low-pitched noises is usually not affected.

The three main types of presbycusis include: sensory presbycusis (loss of hair cells and a high-frequency hearing deficit), metabolic (loss of stria vascularis and a low-frequency hearing deficit), and neural (loss of ganglion cells and a variable pattern of hearing loss).

Presbycusis begins to affect 11% of adults between ages 44 and 54, 25% between ages 55 and 64, 43% between ages 65 and 84, most adults over the age of 80, and nearly all adults over 90 years of age.

The risk factors connected to the onset and severity of presbycusis can include:

Cigarette a possible reason that accelerates age related hearing loss
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Exposure to loud noise (exposure during youth can hasten the progression despite the cessation of noise exposure)
  • Exposure to ototoxins (e.g., aminoglycosides, chemotherapeutic agents, heavy metals)
  • Otologic infections
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Vascular diseases
  • Immunologic disorders
  • Hormonal conditions (e.g., aldosterone, thyroid hormones, estrogen)
Presbycusis treatment by Utah Ear Institute

Presbycusis Signs and Symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms of age-related hearing loss can include:

  • Mumbled speech or muted sounds
  • Difficulty distinguishing between “s” and “th” sounds
  • Difficulty understanding conversations, especially when there is background noise
  • Able to understand men’s voices easier than those of women and children
  • Some sounds seem overly loud and annoying (sound sensitivity or hypercusis)
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in one or both ears
Some symptoms of age-related hearing loss can look like other medical issues, such as cognitive decline, dementia, dizziness, vertigo, and balance disorders as well as mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Frequently Asked Questions about Presbycusis

What causes presbycusis?

The most common cause of age-related hearing loss is damage or deterioration in the inner ear, usually the loss of hair cells, which are sensory receptors in the cochlea. However, deterioration to structures or functionality in the middle ear or along the nerve pathways of the auditory system can also lead to presbycusis.

Can presbycusis be treated?

Presbycusis is a true sensorineural loss in which both cochlear hair cells and, to a lesser extent, the spiral ganglion cells in the vestibulocochlear nerve can be affected. Consequently, hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and training in speech-reading are typically used in presbycusis treatment.

Can presbycusis be unilateral?

By nature, age-related hearing loss is bilateral. Although some learn to favor one ear, or one ear might have more damage than the other, presbycusis is not unilateral.

How is presbycusis diagnosed?

Presbycusis is diagnosed by using a comprehensive hearing evaluation that includes a conversation about your medical and family history, occupational and social activities, a physical examination of your ears, and instrument testing (e.g., tympanometric, true tone audiometry, bone conduction test, etc.).

How does presbycusis affect the ear?

As you age, the hair cells in the cochlea begin to deteriorate, a process that can be accelerated by various factors like exposure to loud noise, genetic factors, ototoxic drugs, and other factors. These hair cells are sensory components that affect hearing and balance, so their deterioration can lead to hearing loss, balance disorders, and cognitive decline.

How does presbycusis affect daily life?

Besides leading to sensorineural hearing loss, presbycusis tends to contribute to balance disorders, cognitive decline, and dementia as well as loneliness, isolation, decline in social activities, communication disorders, and an over dissatisfaction with family life.

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Presbycusis Evaluation, Counseling, and Treatment

Counseling and treatment are facilitated by the identification of hearing loss, which is often mistaken for cognitive impairment.

Evaluating presbycusis involves a comprehensive hearing assessment to determine the type and severity of hearing loss associated with the condition. The assessment includes a physical examination of the ears, which is used to rule out blockages from cerumen, growths, tumors (such as acoustic neuroma), inflammation, or foreign objects, as well as instrument testing to measure the type and severity of hearing loss.

Because age-related hearing loss can begin to develop as early as age 44, our audiologists recommend annual hearing tests starting at 50 years of age in order to measure the progression and begin counseling and treatment before the condition has a more significant impact on your hearing.

Directed treatment to prevent or reverse effects of presbycusis is not available. However, multiple counseling and treatment options can compensate for hearing loss and improve daily function and well-being, including:

Prevention Counseling

Your audiologist, especially early on, can attempt to identify and avoid additional factors that can contribute to hearing loss, such as ongoing noise exposure or the use of potentially ototoxic medications.

Aural Rehabilitation

Auditory (or aural) rehabilitation involves sensory management, instruction, perceptual training, and counseling for hearing impairment, such as training in active listening, speech reading, and communication enhancement, which includes education on reading facial expressions or lip contours of speakers, interpreting contextual cues such as posture to overcome fast speech, and addressing environmental factors by ensuring adequate lighting or phasing out competing sound sources in one-on-one training or in a group setting.

Hearing Aids and Other Technology

Patients with a significant age-related hearing loss will benefit from use of hearing aids or other listening devices or electronic implants. Interventions to improve hearing are particularly important in older adults who are experiencing cognitive decline because hearing impairment further exacerbates cognitive impairment. Hearing aids also help limit the risks related to balance disorders, which account for a large number of deaths and critical injuries related to falls.

Schedule a Hearing Assessment

If you’re over the age of 40 and everyone around you seems to be mumbling, you’re experiencing ringing or buzzing in your ears, it’s easier to understand men than women and children, or if it is becoming impossible to enjoy a night out because of background noise, you could be experiencing an age-related hearing loss.

Before your condition deteriorates further, leading to additional negative physical and mental conditions, seek the help of our licensed professional audiologists at Utah Ear Institute for counseling and treatment for presbycusis.

Just submit the adjacent form so a member of our team can give you a call and help you start the process by scheduling a hearing assessment.

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