While you may get wiser and gain more life experience with age, your health is unfortunately not something that improves through the years. This is especially true in terms of your hearing. Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, is one of the most common conditions affecting older Americans.
How Common Is Age-Related Hearing Loss?
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one in three adults in the U.S. between 65 and 74 has hearing loss. One in two experiences hearing loss over the age of 75.
While there are a number of hearing loss causes, changes in the inner ear are the most common factor related to age-related hearing loss. Issues with the middle ear or the auditory nerve, which connects your ears to your brain, can also cause hearing loss.
How the Ear Works
Understanding how your ears work is important when making sense of age-related hearing loss.
An external soundwave enters the ear and travels down the ear canal until it reaches the eardrum. The eardrum creates a vibration, which is passed through three tiny bones in the middle ear called the malleus, incus and stapes. The vibration then causes fluid within the cochlea of the inner ear to ripple. This moves the hair cells that line cochlea, which creates an electric signal. This signal travels up the auditory nerve to the brain where it is interpreted as sound.
Why Age Causes Hearing Loss
There are a number of factors that contribute to age-related hearing loss. The most common is long-term exposure to noise.
Exposure to noise over a long period of time can damage the delicate hair cells within the inner ear. Once damaged, the hairs cannot grow back. High blood pressure and diabetes, conditions common in older adults, can limit blood flow to the ears, damaging the hair cells. Ototoxic medications can also kill these hair cells.
Prevent Age-Related Hearing Loss
While experts are not sure how to prevent this gradual type of hearing loss, they agree that protecting your ears from loud noises is a good start.
To do this, avoid loud noises or wear hearing protection when you must be exposed.
To learn more about keeping your ears safe or to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional, contact Gulf Coast Audiology today.