Age-related hearing loss: Overview, Causes

Alternate Names : Hearing loss – age related, Presbycusis

Definition

Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is the slow loss of hearing that occurs as people get older.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Tiny hairs inside your ear help you hear. They pick up sound waves and change them into the nerve signals that the brain interprets as sound. Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs inside the ear are damaged or die. The hair cells do not regrow, so most hearing loss is permanent.

There is no known single cause for age-related hearing loss. Most commonly, it is caused by changes in the inner ear that occur as you grow older. However, your genes and loud noises (such as from rock concerts or music headphones) may play a large role.

The following factors contribute to age-related hearing loss:

* Family history (age-related hearing loss tends to run in families)
* Repeated exposure to loud noises
* Smoking (smokers are more likely to have such hearing loss than nonsmokers)

Certain medical conditions and medications also contribute to age-related hearing loss. About half of all people over age 75 have some amount of age-related hearing loss.

Pictures & Images

Ear anatomy

The ear consists of external, middle, and inner structures. The eardrum and the three tiny bones conduct sound from the eardrum to the cochlea.

Age-related hearing loss: Overview, Causes

Age-related hearing loss: Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Age-related hearing loss: Treatment


Review Date : 5/13/2009
Reviewed By : Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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