Health Encyclopedia


What is presbycusis?

Anatomy of the ear
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Presbycusis [prez-bee-KYU-sis] is hearing loss that happens over time, as people age. It is a common problem that occurs with aging. About 30% of adults over age 65 have hearing loss. About 50% of people over age 75 have hearing loss.

Presbycusis usually happens slowly over many years. It often occurs in both ears at the same time. In some cases, people are not aware of the change right away.

What causes presbycusis?

There may be many causes for presbycusis. But it most often happens because of age-related changes in the following areas:

  • In the inner ear (most common)

  • In the middle ear

  • Along the nerve pathways to the brain

Things that might add to presbycusis include:

  • Long-term exposure to very loud noise

  • Loss of hair cells (sensory receptors) in the inner ear, that help you to hear

  • Family history of hearing loss

  • Aging

  • Some health problems, such as vascular disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes

  • Side effects of some medicines, such as aspirin and certain antibiotics

What are the symptoms of presbycusis?

Each person’s symptoms may vary. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Other people’s speech sounds mumbled or slurred

  • Having trouble hearing high-pitched sounds

  • Having trouble understanding conversations, often when there is background noise

  • Men's voices are easier to hear than women's

  • Some sounds seem very loud and annoying

  • A ringing sound (tinnitus) in one or both ears

Presbycusis symptoms may seem like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Treatment for presbycusis

Your healthcare provider will create a care plan for you based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • How well you handle certain medicines, treatments, or therapies

  • If your condition is expected to get worse

  • What you would like to do

Treatment options for presbycusis may include:

  • Avoiding loud noises and reducing noise exposure

  • Wearing ear plugs or special fluid-filled ear muffs, to prevent further damage to hearing

  • Using a hearing aid

  • Getting a Cochlear implant

  • Using assistive devices (amplifiers) to make your TV or phone louder

  • Learning speech reading, to communicate using lip reading and visual cues

Medical Reviewers:

  • Hanrahan, John, MD
  • Sather, Rita, RN