What is presbycusis?

Presbycusis is the term for age-related hearing loss. Simply put, it’s a progressive sensorineural hearing loss that usually affects both ears to the same degree and is commonly seen in people over the age of 65. This type of hearing loss affects your ability to hear sounds in higher frequencies, more so than lower, deeper sounds.

Consequently, speech intelligibility is hampered more severely than the capacity to hear sounds, especially in noisy environments. It is therefore common for people with this type of hearing loss to say “I can hear, but I can’t understand”. Many people with presbycusis don’t just experience hearing difficulty but complain of tinnitus (buzzing or ringing noises) in their ears. Tinnitus is a common symptom of age-related hearing loss.


What causes presbycusis?

Presbycusis is a medical health condition that develops for several reasons, but mainly due to age-related processes and damaging external influences.

Our hearing hair cells are located in the inner ear’s organ of Corti. If these cells are damaged due to continuous noise pollution, for example, external sounds can no longer be perceived correctly, resulting in impaired hearing.

There’s also a link between presbycusis and factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes. A genetic predisposition may also be a contributing factor. 

  • Presbycusis can be hereditary, just like other medical conditions. The important question to ask is, did your parents or other close relatives have hearing loss? You could have inherited it.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or heart disease can affect the blood supply to the middle ear and result in presbycusis.
  • Ototoxic medication such as aspirin can cause hearing loss. Therefore, it’s important to use it in moderation and only when needed.
  • Exposure to loud noises over a long time can lead to presbycusis.

How is presbycusis diagnosed?

To correctly diagnose presbycusis or age-associated hearing loss, the first step is to exclude other causes or illnesses. This will include an examination of the ear. In patients with presbycusis, an ear-nose-throat specialist will usually find an eardrum without defects such as tears or holes. A pure-tone and speech test will ultimately confirm the diagnosis.

How is presbycusis treated?

Once all other causes have been excluded and you have been diagnosed with presbycusis, a specialist will usually recommend a hearing aid. Modern hearing aids are fit with the most advanced technology and can help you hear as well as you have before. If left untreated, presbycusis may lead to social isolation or depression. We at can help you take the first step towards better hearing.