Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is a progressive loss of the ability to hear that occurs as people get older. The problem affects both ears. It starts with problems hearing high-pitched sounds. Over time, the ability to hear lower-pitched sounds may be affected as well.
The primary symptom is problems understanding speech, especially in the presence of background noise.
It is unknown whether a specific cause, such as long-term exposure to excessive noise, contributes to age-related hearing loss. But it is likely that genetics play a role, as it tends to occur in families.
The number of hair cells in the inner ear declines with time, although hearing loss rarely becomes noticeable before age 55. But hearing loss is not necessarily an inevitable part of aging. Many people in their 80s do not have hearing loss.
There is no known cure for age-related hearing loss. Treatment is focused on improving function, such as by using hearing aids.
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Charles M. Myer III MD - Otolaryngology & Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine