Age-related hearing impairment

Age-related hearing impairment


Age-related hearing impairment. With age, the hearing deteriorates very slowly, this is called age-related hearing impairment or presbycusis. Especially, and especially in the beginning, hearing the high tones diminishes as the years go on. In addition to hearing the soundless well, the sound is also distorted. Over the age of 70, more than half of the people are hard of hearing, but this is not always recognized by the person concerned (or the general practice).

Symptoms of age-related hearing impairment

Age-related hearing impairment usually develops very gradually as the years’ progress. The perception of especially higher tones gradually decreases. People with hearing impairment experience a lot of nuisance in group conversations or situations with background noise. Usually, it goes quite equally with the left and right ear.

How does old-age hearing impairment arise?

Age-related hearing impairment is probably a phenomenon of aging. Just like hair loss and wrinkling of the skin. Not fun, but it’s just part of getting older. The total amount of noise to which one is exposed may also have to do with it: more noise produces more and moreover, the loss of hearing high tones at a younger age. As you get older, you will eventually be able to whisper and understand other soft high tones less well.

Is it serious and what can you expect?

In principle, age-related hearing impairment is not serious. The hearing loss is of course very difficult and it can even be disabling. Hearing rehabilitation is possible with hearing aids, after first having a hearing test. In principle, true age-related hearing impairment is not reversible.

When to see the doctor?

If you experience a lot of nuisance in conversations or often have difficulties in communicating (for example with telephone conversations and watching television), you can make an appointment. Before a diagnosis of age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is made, it must be checked whether there are other causes of hearing loss. Other causes can include:

  • a plug of wax in the ear canal
  • ear infection
  • Ménière’s disease
  • noise damage
  • ototoxicity (certain drugs can damage cells in the inner ear)
  • otosclerosis (abnormal bone formation in the ear)
  • neuroma (disease of the auditory nerve)
  • functional hearing impairment

In case of a sudden onset of deafness, it is advisable to consult the doctor (practice).

What can you do about it yourself?

The loss of treble perception can be accelerated by exposure to loud tones. Prevention therefore starts at a young age: avoid too much exposure to loud noise. Once the sensory hair cells (the cells that transport sound) in the inner ear are broken, they don’t come back.

General advice and precautions

If hearing impairment is demonstrated, efforts should be made to improve the incoming sound. This can be done by speaking more slowly and clearly towards the person concerned. In addition, background noise (‘noise’) can be very disturbing. Preventing background noise can improve speech perception (and therefore hearing). A hearing aid is useful if the sound is heard less loudly and communication problems often arise as a result. Delaying a hearing aid fitting for too long can make the fitting procedure difficult. When the sensory hair cells that must perceive the sound are definitely broken, amplifying the sound by means of a hearing aid no longer makes sense.

On you can read more about hearing aids in the Hearing aid file: types, functions, and costs.

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