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hearing loss, known as presbycusis, affects most older
adults to some degree. The most frequent cause of age-related hearing loss is
the natural breakdown of nerve cells in the
inner ear. Sound reaches the inner ear, but the breakdown of nerve cells
prevents proper hearing. This is known as sensorineural hearing loss.
hearing loss can also be caused by age-related changes that may affect the
eardrum or the bones of the middle ear, which affects how well sound can move
into the inner ear. Long-term medical conditions, such as
high blood pressure, heart disease, and
diabetes, or other problems with blood movement
(circulation), may also contribute to age-related hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss usually affects both ears and may range from
mild to severe. It may affect your hearing in the following ways:
If you have age-related hearing loss, you may not know it,
because older people usually lose their hearing very slowly. Without knowing
it, you may make small changes over time—turning up the TV volume, standing
closer to a person who is speaking—that allow you to adapt to hearing loss. At
some point, the loss may become so severe that these changes no longer work.
Your family members or friends may be the first to realize that you cannot hear
There is no known way to reverse age-related hearing loss.
But if you have age-related hearing loss, there are devices that can help
you hear and communicate more easily, including hearing aids, telephone
amplifiers, pagers, and email. It is also helpful to ask your family and
friends to make adjustments when talking with you, such as speaking clearly and facing you so that
you can better see their facial expressions and gestures.
April 13, 2011
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Steven T. Kmucha, MD - Otolaryngology
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