Hearing Loss in Older Person

February 2, 2019

Hearing Loss in Older Person

Age-related hearing loss (Presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, respond to warnings, and hear phones, doorbells, and smoke alarms. Hearing loss can also make it hard to enjoy talking with family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation. Age-related hearing loss most often occurs in both ears, affecting them equally. Because the loss is gradual, if you have age-related hearing loss you may not realize that you’ve lost some of your ability to hear.

There are many causes of age-related hearing loss. Most commonly, it arises from changes in the inner ear as we age, but it can also result from changes in the middle ear, or from complex changes along the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain. Certain medical conditions and medications may also play a role.

Many factors can contribute to hearing loss as you get older. It can be difficult to distinguish age-related hearing loss from hearing loss that can occur for other reasons, such as long-term exposure to noise.

Conditions that are more common in older people, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can contribute to hearing loss. Medications that are toxic to the sensory cells in your ears (for example, some chemotherapy drugs) can also cause hearing loss.

Rarely, age-related hearing loss can be caused by abnormalities of the outer ear or middle ear. Such abnormalities may include reduced function of the tympanic membrane (the eardrum) or reduced function of the three tiny bones in the middle ear that carry sound waves from the tympanic membrane to the inner ear.

Most older people who experience hearing loss have a combination of both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss.

Common signs of hearing loss in seniors: Having a problem hearing over the telephone, Having trouble following the conversation when two or more people talk at the same time, Turning the TV volume up too high, Straining to understand conversation, Having trouble hearing in a noisy background, like in a restaurant, Complaining of dizziness, pain, or ringing in their ears, Frequently asking people to repeat themselves, Complaining that other people mumble or don’t speak clearly, Misunderstanding what people say and not answering in an expected way, Having trouble understanding when women or children talk.

Other signs of hearing loss in seniors include a change in personality, like someone who used to be social, but now doesn’t want to spend time around groups of people.


The audiologist serves as the primary expert in the assessment and non-medical diagnosis of auditory impairment in aged people. The audiologist also provides rehabilitative services and education to individuals with auditory impairment, family members, and to the public. The audiologist provides information concerning hearing and hearing impairment, the use of prosthetic devices, and strategies for improving speech recognition by exploiting auditory, visual, and tactile speech information. The audiologist also counsels patients regarding the effects of auditory impairment on communicative and psychosocial status. Hearing aids may be recommended for some individuals.  Assistive listening devices can provide further improvement in hearing ability in certain situations.  One example of such a device is the built-in telephone amplifier.  Another example is FM systems that make sound clearer, with or without a hearing aid, by delivering sound waves like a radio. Training in speech reading (using visual cues to determine what is being spoken) can help those with presbycusis to understand better what is being said in conversations or presentations.

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