Elderly Hearing Loss
Hearing loss that is related to a person's age is called presbycusis. The word "presby" means elder and "cusis" means hearing.
Presbycusis is one of the most common types of hearing loss and it is believed to be caused by the combined effects of intrinsic aging of the peripheral or central auditory systems along with the accumulated effects of normal bodily wear and tear. The condition can also be triggered by age-related diseases, possible toxic effects of drugs, chemicals, heredity and diet.
Presbycusis often runs in families with some people developing hearing loss earlier and at a greater level than others. Most people with presbycusis lose hearing in the high-frequencies, which impairs understanding of speech more than the hearing of it. Many people refer to this by the outdated term "nerve deafness", when in fact true nerve deafness is very rare.
Presbycusis rarely results in total deafness. However many people experience considerable difficulty in their later years as hearing loss often impairs their ability to communicate. Most instances of presbycusis consist of high frequency sensitivity loss. This can interfere with your speech comprehension and the condition usually gets worse with age.
The two major types of presbycusis are sensory and strial. Sensory presbycusis is caused by the loss of outer hair cells in the inner ear and it is associated with high frequency loss of hearing. Most people who have sensory presbycusis can still hear speech, but usually have difficulty in understanding it. Their auditory sensitivity is fine, but their speech discrimination is impaired because it depends on high frequency hearing ability. Most hearing aids can correct high frequency sound loss, helping you to hear properly.
Strial or metabolic presbycusis isn't as common as sensory presbycusis and it affects both low and high sound frequencies. This type of hearing loss is caused by pathology of the stria vascularis; which, through its metabolism, is the source of electrical energy that drives the cochlea. Strial presbycusis is more common in women than in men and it has been linked with cardiovascular disease.
While it is almost unavoidable, presbycusis may be partly prevented by avoiding excessive noise exposure with hearing protection. The effects of noise will accumulate over your lifetime and will likely contribute to communication difficulties when you are older.
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