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Causes for Age-Related Hearing Loss

By Julie Hubik August 15, 2017

Hearing loss is usually thought to be a problem that generally afflicts the elderly population, being the third most frequently diagnosed chronic health problems in seniors (after hypertension and arthritis). Based on information from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 10% of adults aged 55-64 are afflicted with hearing loss. As the age range increases to 65-74 this percentage rises to 25%. Alarmingly, by the time people are aged 75 or older, 50% of the elderly American population develops hearing loss.

It is clear that increasing age leads to a higher chance of developing hearing loss. Age-related hearing damage is known as presbycusis. This type of hearing loss gradually results in loss of hearing due to damage to the fragile hair cells within the ears that convert sound signals to electrical impulses which are then sent to the brain. Death of hair cells within the ear does not result in any re-growth of those cells, thus this kind of damage can result in permanent hearing loss.

The reasons for presbycusis are primarily thought to be an extensively prolonged exposure to various loud noises over an extensive amount of time. These detrimental noises include loud sporting events, music concerts, power tools, as well as loud work and home environments. Various health problems may also contribute to hearing loss, such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes, viruses, certain medications, allergies, tumors, or excessive earwax accumulation.

Genetic predisposition may also be a major contributing factor in age-related hearing loss, especially if hearing loss is common in your family. The Journal of American Family Physician reports that around 50% of presbycusis is hereditary. This kind of hereditary hearing loss affects men more than women and can result in the onset of hearing loss earlier in life.

Research suggests that women seniors who suffer from hearing loss tend to be more susceptible to moderate or severe levels of depression. Hearing loss is known to have detrimental effects on cognitive abilities.

The Better Hearing Institute conducted a study that found that untreated damage to hearing can lead to varying degrees of lowered household income levels. Specifically, higher levels of hearing loss can result in a loss of up to $30,000 in annual income. Furthermore, hearing loss was also found to be a contributing factor in hampered interpersonal relationships and lowered self-esteem. Hearing loss is an irreversible condition. With proper hearing protection people can prevent years of damage that can result in presbycusis.

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