People in their old age suffer several health problems. One among them is known as presbycusis. It is nothing but the gradual hearing loss that occurs to people over the age of 65. People in the age group of 55-65 are vulnerable to the issue. But, above 65 years of age, the chances of suffering hearing loss increases (one among two can suffer from the issue). It is difficult to reverse the hearing loss of most of the cases. The temporary issues leading to presbycusis are easy to overcome.
The hearing is one of the five senses that facilitates the ability to communicate. It allows people to listen to the sounds and react accordingly. Losing hearing power suddenly can make you feel depressed. You may not interpret the happenings around you properly. Getting proper medical assistance at the right time can overcome the issue to a certain extent. With the hearing specialist taking significant steps, you can improve your hearing power. So, read ahead to know the issue in detail to take necessary to avoid the discomforts and problems to you or your loved ones due to presbycusis.
How Does Your Ear Work?
Before learning more about the hearing loss, you need to know about how to hear. Your ear consists of three major areas:
- Inner Ear
- Middle Ear
- Outer Ear
As the sound waves pass through your outer ear, you can feel the vibrations in the eardrum. The vibration is amplified by the three bones in your middle ear. So, the amplified vibration reaches your inner ear, which passes through cochlea.
The cochlea is the structure you can find inside your ear. The snail-shaped structure is surrounded by a thousand hair. It translates into the electric signals that are transmitted to the brain. As the brain interprets the different signals as diverse sounds, you can distinguish it easier. Therefore, it helps you understand the sounds better.
What Is Presbycusis?
Presbycusis is the sensorineural hearing impairment. It mostly affects the elderly people who rely on their other senses to overcome the disabilities of old age. The special senses like hearing can help them overcome the limitation of delayed reaction time and loss of vision. People suffer from memory issues in the advanced age leading to loss of focus. Therefore, listening helps them understand and perceive things with clarity.
Presbycusis can cause bilateral hearing loss of high-frequency. Therefore, it can lead to the issues on speech discrimination. It can also cause difficulty in the auditory processing of information. People exposed to loud noises regularly in their life are more prone to the issue. Therefore, the issue is more common than you anticipate. The hearing loss is a big issue for people in their old age. It causes isolation in some people. As presbycusis leads to the restriction of interaction, it leads to a feeling of disability. So, people restrict their interaction by phone or in the social gathering. So, it can cause loneliness and ultimately depression.
Symptoms Of Presbycusis
People who know or suffer from ailments need to check the following symptoms to determine the hearing loss issue. So, the main signs associated with presbycusis are:
- Difficulty in understanding words with the presence of background noise or in the presence of a crowd.
- Trouble to hear the consonants (all alphabets in the English alphabets except a, e, i, o, and u)
- Muffling of the sound or the speech
- The constant need to turn the volume of radio or television high
The issue needs immediate medical attention as it can lead to some severe complications. Therefore, the problem can lead to people in old age suffer from:
As the sounds become muffled, it becomes difficult to understand the conversation. Therefore, it leads to withdrawing from conversations. It becomes more difficult to comprehend the talking with the background noise. So, ultimately people feel they have a severe disability. It can lead to depression and stress.
The inability to follow the conversation among friends or acquaintances can make people avoid any social setting. They withdraw from the conversation and stay away from the settings that need conversation skills.
Therefore, if you feel like you have issues with the hearing, then you need to seek medical help. It is particularly necessary to get the appointment of the doctor with the issue in the single ear. As the hearing is important in life, you need to take action immediately. The failure to do so can lead to negative interference in life.
Causes Of Presbycusis
The presbycusis can develop gradually over time. It is not a condition that affects you overnight. Therefore, you need to look out for the symptoms that suggest an issue. But, you may wonder what causes the issue to develop. The underlying causes can lead to temporary hearing loss to some irreversible complications. So, the common causes of presbycusis are:
Inner Ear Damage
Exposure to loud noise can result in the wear and tear of the nerve cells in the cochlea. It can also cause issues to the hair surrounding the cochlea region. Therefore, it results in the disruption of sensing sound signals to the brain. The damaged or ruptured nerve cells and hairs make the electrical signal transmission inefficient. Subsequently, it causes hearing loss or presbycusis.
Some people are suspectable to the issue more than the others due to their genetic makeup. It makes the high pitched tones muffled. If people in your family have the issue, then you are more at risk of the issue. So, it causes difficulty in picking out words against the background commotion. The type of presbycusis is permanent, which is irreversible.
The gradual buildup of earwax blocks the ear canal. The earwax blocks the sound waves from entering your ear. The obstruction of the sound waves conduction results in the inability to listen properly. It is a temporary hear loss. So, it is easy to restore it with the removal of the earwax.
The ear infection is another probable cause of presbycusis. Elderly people are more prone to illness and infections. Therefore, it can restrict the ability to hear properly. Once the infection is treated, it can restore the hearing ability.
The abnormal growth in the outer region or the middle part of the ear can restrict the conduction of sound waves. Subsequently, it results in the hearing loss.
Several factors can result in the perforation of the tympanic membrane also known as the eardrum. The factors that lead to the rupturing are:
- Sudden changes in pressure
- Ignoring infection that leads to ear rupture
- Loud blasts of noise
- Poking the ear with any object
The rupture can cause hearing issues irrespective of the ages of the people.
Risk Factors Of Presbycusis
You may think that only old people can suffer from presbycusis. But, it is not true. Some people are more prone to the issue compared to others. The factors influencing the probability of getting affected by the disease are:
Aging can lead to several issues in your life. One among them that develops gradually is the degeneration of the inner ear structure. So, it can lead to presbycusis.
The exposure to loud noise can damage the inner ear cells. It can cause issues in two ways. One is the hearing loss caused by long-term exposure. Another is the damage due to the short blast of noise. Some of the examples of the short blast of noise are the sounds from an explosion or gunshot.
Genetics plays an important part in getting affected by presbycusis. It makes some people more vulnerable to the ear damage from the aging or the high volume of sound.
Some illness can damage the parts of the ear. So, it can lead to presbycusis. High fever or meningitis can lead to the damage of cochlea.
Side-effects of the medication can cause temporary presbycusis. The medications causing the issue are:
- Antibiotic gentamicin
- Chemotherapy drugs
- High doses of aspirin
- Antimalarial drugs
- Pain relievers
- Loop diuretics
Recreational activities that offer fun and entertainment can produce high levels of noise. It can lead to the hearing loss. The hearing loss due to the exposure of recreational noise can cause hearing loss gradually. Some noises like the exposure to the explosives like firearms, jet engines, etc. can affect you immediately. Therefore, it can cause serious and irreversible damage.
When you work in an environment that makes you exposed to high noises like construction, farming or factory work, you are at risk of presbycusis. So, the regular exposure to the noise in the working environment can lead to hearing loss as it damages the ear structure.
Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your quality of life. Among older adults with hearing loss, commonly reported problems to include:
- False sense that others are angry with you
Unfortunately, most people affected by hearing loss live with these difficulties for years before seeking treatment — or never seek treatment at all. This may also cause lasting problems for those who love you if you try to cope by denying your hearing loss or withdrawing from social interactions.
Diagnosis Of Presbycusis
If you suspect your or your loved ones have a hearing problem, it is important to seek medical treatment. At first, the doctor may conduct several tests to diagnose the problem. Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor decides the apt treatment. So, the different diagnostic method to identify the hearing loss percentage is:
The physical examination is conducted by the ENT doctor. It will help the doctor determine the actual cause of the hearing problem. The temporary hearing issue caused due to the ear wax blockage, inflammation or infection is identified during the physical examination. The structural problems of the ear leading to hearing loss are detectable with the physical examination. So, the doctor conducts the test to identify the small issues associated with presbycusis with the examination.
The general screening tests can uncover the underlying issue causing presbycusis. So, the doctor may cover one ear at a time to check for issues. It helps to identify your reaction to words spoken at different volumes. Therefore, it helps the doctor determine the degree of hearing loss you suffer.
Tuning Fork Tests
Your doctor can detect the hearing loss with the simple test using the tuning fork. The tuning fork is a metal instrument with a two-pronged shape. The examination is highly relevant in identifying the hearing damage caused due to the damage to the middle ear. The middle part is the vibrating region of the ear structure. Therefore, the test is relevant in detecting issues in the eardrum, nerves of the inner ear, or the sensors.
It is the more sophisticated test conducted by an audiologist to detect the issues within your ear. You need to wear earphones to find issues with each year. The different ranges of sounds and tones are directed to one ear at a time. So, you need to indicate the sound you hear each time. The tone is repeated at various sound levels to detect hearing ability or disability. Apart from sounds, you need to hear various words and repeat them to check the hearing issues.
Treatment Of Presbycusis
Depending on the diagnosis, it is easy to determine the issue that leads to hearing problems. Your doctor can suggest the best treatment option to overcome the presbycusis. You can improve the hearing ability to the optimum levels with the following treatment options:
Wax Blockage Removal
It is the simplest treatment option for the earwax blockage related presbycusis. It is the reversible cause of your hearing loss. Therefore, your doctor can remove the wax from your ear by using the oil. It softens the earwax making it easy to flush, scoop, or suction it out from the ear. So, the method can restore your hearing ability without any difficulty.
A traumatic ear injury leading to the hearing loss or repeated infections need surgery to alleviate the issue. The surgical procedure involves inserting the small tubes to drain the ears. So, the invasive procedure aims to overcome the issues causing presbycusis and optimize your hearing ability.
The damage in the inner ear leading to the presbycusis is overcome with hearing aid. Therefore, the hearing aids make it easier to identify the sounds. You can discuss the option with an audiologist to know the potential benefits of the device. So, with the expert opinion, you will know if the device fits you well or not.
The higher degree of hearing loss is treated with cochlear implants. While the hearing aids amplify the sounds, the cochlear implants work in place of the damaged parts. Therefore, the implants can function in place for the nonworking parts of your inner ear. You need to consult a specialist to get the implants. So, you need to take an appointment with your audiologist and ENT (ear, nose, and throat) to determine the benefits, risks, and other aspects of the implants.
Getting treatment is an important step to enhance the quality of life. It can transform the quality of life dramatically. So, you or your loved ones can have the self-confidence to face the society and maintain a close relationship without holding back.
You may wonder if you can prevent presbycusis from affecting your life. Well, it certainly is possible to take the necessary steps. It will prevent noise-induced hearing loss. With the correct steps, you can avoid the age-related presbycusis from worsening. So, you can adopt the following:
Protect Ears In Workplace
You need to protect your ears at the workplace to avoid long-lasting damage. It is possible with the specially designed earmuffs. The accessory that resembles an earphone can protect the ears by bringing down the noise level to an acceptable level. You can also use customized or pre-formed molded earplugs. The accessory available in rubber or plastic can eliminate the risks due to high noise levels.
Are you working in a noisy environment? Then, you need regular testing to find the issues plaguing your hearing. It helps in the early detection of the hearing loss. When you detect hearing loss, it helps you take adequate steps. Therefore, you can stop the hearing loss from worsening and affecting your life.
Avoid Recreational Risks
Recreational activities can offer you fun and excitements. But, taking unnecessary risks for the sake of enjoyment is not good. Therefore, avoid some activities for a long period of time as it can affect your hearing:
- Listening to rock concerts without protecting your ears
- Hunting activities
- Snowmobile Riding
You need to take adequate breaks from the loud noises or wear protective gear to safeguard your ears. Reducing the volume of the music can prevent presbycusis from affecting your life.
With the hearing loss, you can lose your self-confidence. So, taking treatment for the presbycusis is important to reverse the hearing loss. According to the severity of the issue, your doctor may succeed in reversing the problem to a certain extent. So, it will help you gain an overall improved outlook on life. You can overcome the depression as you may never feel isolated. Therefore, take the right steps for a better quality of life.
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