As you age, parts of your body will gradually slow down. One of the most common examples of this is age-related hearing loss. Known as presbycusis, this is the most common condition affecting older adults.
Who Experiences Presbycusis?
Adults over the age of 65 have a significantly increased risk of developing hearing loss. One in three people between the ages of 65 to 74 has hearing loss, and one in two over the age of 75 experiences trouble hearing.
How the Ear Works
There are three main parts of the ear:
- The outer ear
- The middle ear
- The inner ear
Soundwaves from your environment are captured by the outer ear and travel down the ear canal, which leads to the eardrum. When the soundwave hits the eardrum, a vibration is created, which passes through three tiny bones within the middle ear called the malleus, incus and stapes. This vibration reaches the fluid-filled cochlea in the inner ear, which causes the fluid to move. This movement activates the tiny hair cells that line the cochlea, creating an electrical impulse. This electrical impulse travels via the auditory nerve to the brain where it is interpreted as sound.
Causes of Age-Related Hearing Loss
Damage and changes to the inner ear are the most common causes of age-related hearing loss.
One reason for this change is because of long-term exposure to noise. Loud noises can permanently damage the delicate hairs within the cochlea. Unfortunately, once these hairs are injured, they cannot grow back.
In addition to hearing loss, other conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes are more common in older Americans. These diseases can prevent adequate blood supply from reaching the inner ear, which can also damage the hair cells.
Ototoxic medications are a danger to these hair cells as well. There are more than 200 known medications, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, that can cause damage to the ear. These serious medications are often used to treat infection, cancer and heart disease.
Hearing Loss Protection
While there is nothing you can do about getting older, you can take better care of you ears as you age. This includes wearing proper hearing protection and avoiding exposure to loud noises.
To learn more about age-related hearing loss or to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional, contact Elk Grove Hearing Care.