What is Gradual Hearing Loss?

senior sitting for hearing examination

Presbycusis is an issue that develops as people age, typically occurring gradually and affecting one in three seniors. Because this hearing loss happens over a course of time, some people are unaware that it is even developing. It usually affects high-pitched sounds like a phone ringing or a microwave blaring, leaving low-pitched sounds unaffected – typically.

How Can Aging Affect Hearing?

Age-related hearing loss has numerous causes. It usually arises due to changes in the following locations:

  • Inner ear (most common)
  • Middle ear
  • The brain’s neural pathways

Other factors affecting aging hearing loss:

  • Constant loud noise exposure (such as music or work-related noise)
  • Hair cell loss (sensory receptors in the inner ear)
  • Conditions like heart disease or diabetes
  • Some drugs, including aspirin and antibiotics, can have side effects.

What are the Symptoms of Gradual Hearing Loss?

The most common signs of age-related hearing loss are:

  • Others’ speech is garbled or slurred
  • Sounds like “s” or “th” are difficult to detect.
  • Conversations are hard to understand with background noise.
  • Men’s voices are simpler to understand.
  • Some sounds are obnoxious and loud.
  • Tinnitus (ear ringing) can affect one or both ears.

The signs and symptoms of age-related and gradual hearing loss might be confusing. Consult your hearing health specialist for a diagnosis.

So How Is Hearing Loss Diagnosed?

Your hearing health specialist will use an otoscope – a lighted tool – to examine the outer ear canal and eardrum. They will check the overall condition of the ear canal, as well as look for any anomalies that could be causing gradual hearing loss. 

To determine whether or not a hearing loss is present – and possibly the severity – your hearing care provider will conduct a series of hearing tests. These will provide a clearer picture of what is happening with your hearing ability.

How is Gradual Hearing Loss Treated?

Your hearing health professional will choose the optimal treatment for you based on a number of factors, including: your age, health and medical history, current medications, duration of the condition and any therapies you may be involved in.

The most common treatment available for hearing loss is hearing aids, which can be selected in a variety of different styles. The most commonly recommended include:

  • In the canal (ITC)
  • In the ear (ITE)
  • Behind the ear (BTE)
  • Invisible in canal (IIC)
  • Completely in canal (CIC)

If you have considerable hearing loss, your hearing care specialist will work closely with you to find a solution that address your specific needs and preferences, whether you’re concerned about aesthetics or budget.

Can You Prevent Gradual Hearing Loss?

Protecting your hearing is the best approach to avoid age-related hearing loss. However, sometimes there is nothing that can be done and gradual hearing loss can just be a part of normal life. You can try: 

  • Avoid loud noises and noise pollution
  • Use ear protection when immersed in sound
  • Seek help if you think you may have signs or symptoms of hearing loss

If you are concerned that you may be experiencing a gradual hearing loss the best thing you can do is to visit a hearing health specialist.