Like most parts of your body, your hearing changes as you age. In fact, age related hearing loss is a very common condition that affects most elderly people, as aging is the single biggest cause of loss of hearing globally.

Though it’s most common in the elderly, age related hearing loss can even affect people in their thirties or forties.

The clinical term for age related hearing loss is presbycusis, and though it isn’t a life-threatening condition, it can have a great impact on your quality of life if left untreated.

The loss of hearing due to aging is classified as a kind of sensorineural hearing loss  that can’t be reversed and can even lead to deafness and distress, especially since ringing in the ear (tinnitus) is a common side-effect.

How do we hear and why does loss of hearing occur so commonly?Your ears are very complex organs, and they have to work hard in many ways so that you can hear the world around you. To do this, your ear is split into three sections:

  1. The outer ear
  2. The middle ear
  3. The inner ear

Your outer ear (1) collects the sounds around you and funnels them into your ear canal, which causes your ear drum to vibrate. This vibration shakes the tiny bones (called ossicles) in your middle ear (2), which helps move the sounds into the cochlea of your inner ear (3). Your cochlea processes these sounds and sends them up the auditory nerve to your brain, where you interpret what you’re hearing. It’s in this third section of your ear that age-related hearing loss mostly occurs.


Since you age gradually over the years, your hearing deteriorates gradually as well. This type of hearing loss (age related) is most often caused by damage to the inner ear, such as:

  • Structural changes in your inner ear
  • Impairment to the nerve that carries sound to your brain
  • Changes to how your brain processes speech and sound
  • Blood flow changes to your ear
  • – One of the most common causes of hearing loss is damage to your cochlea’s tiny hair cells. These tiny hair cells are crucial to your ability to hear, as they are sensory cells that pick up sound waves as you hear them and change them into nerve signals. These nerve signals are then sent up to your brain and interpreted as sound and meaning.
    – Your cochlea’s hair cells cannot be repaired once they are damaged, and they don’t regrow either. Damage to these hair cells is also the most common cause of ringing in the ear (tinnitus) that many people experience. As this microscopic image shows, this means that age related hearing loss is permanent.

It depends largely on your genetic and medical history, as well as your exposure to noise over the years. A firearm enthusiast is at much higher risk than a gardener, for example. Because of the nature of their work, veterans are at perhaps highest risk for both hearing loss (and tinnitus) as they get older. In general, factors that contribute to presbycusis include:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Prolonged exposure to excessive noise at work, home or during leisure activities can cause this type of hearing loss. This is by far the biggest risk factor!
  • Did your parents have hearing loss? You may have inherited that tendency, too.
  • Certain medical conditions that affect the blood supply to the middle ear, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other circulatory problems. Some women may experience hearing loss after menopause, or notice an increase in tinnitus.
  • Ototoxic medications, which are drugs that can affect hearing. For example, toxic side effects of certain medications, such as aspirin and antibiotics, can negatively affect your hearing. Compared to younger adults, older adults are more likely to take medication and experience side effects.

Because presbycusis occurs gradually, many people don’t realize they’re having difficulty hearing. If you’re older and having hearing problems, here are some symptoms that indicate you may have presbycusis:

  • Other people seem to be mumbling or slurring their speech and language. In other words, you find that you can hear but not understand.
  • Conversations are difficult to understand, especially when there is background noise
  • Certain sounds seem overly loud or annoying
  • You have difficulty hearing higher pitched sounds, such as the telephone ring or birds chirping (hearing aids are great for birders)
  • Men’s voices are easier to understand than women’s and children’s voices
  • Sounds like the “th,” “s,” and “f” sounds are commonly confused because they are high-frequency sounds, which are difficult to hear. This means that someone with age related hearing loss would have difficulty hearing the difference between the words “thing,” “sing,” and “fling,” for example.
  • difficulty telling certain sounds apart, which affects your ability to understand what is being said, as words begin to sound similar or become confusing.
  • You are experiencing a ringing, buzzing or hissing sound in one or both of your ears, also known as tinnitus, that won’t go away.

If any of the symptoms we’ve listed are affecting your ability to hear, make an appointment to see a hearing healthcare professional as soon as possible for a hearing evaluation. The results of this evaluation will help determine the cause and extent of your hearing loss, as well as the best solution for treating the problem


When it comes to hearing loss treatment, unfortunately there is no “cure”. Some things just can’t be fixed as our bodies age, and our hearing is one of them. However, there are management options available to you, and it’s important that you manage your age-related hearing loss, as if left untreated it can link to sadness, depression, anxiety, paranoia, emotional turmoil, insecurity, and less social activity.

There are plenty of ways for you to manage your hearing loss, prevent further damage, and still lead an active and fulfilling life. The type of management suggested to you by your audiologist will depend on:

  • How old you are
  • Your medical history
  • Your general health
  • The severity of your hearing loss
  • The outlook of your hearing loss
  • How well you will be able to handle certain procedures, medications, or therapies
  • Your personal preferences and opinions

Hearing aids  are the most common tool used to manage age related hearing loss. Because this condition affects your ability to hear soft, low volume sounds, hearing aids are a great solution, as their primary function is simply to amplify sounds and make them louder.

Unfortunately, not everyone benefits from using hearing aids, and the decision to wear them is a highly personal one; however, by pairing up with your audiologist and having regular checkups, you’ll be able to choose and personalize your hearing aids to suit your needs and lifestyle.


Though you can’t stop yourself from aging or prevent age related hearing loss fully, you can take certain hearing protection precautionary measures to decrease the severity of condition and prevent it from getting worse. Some good hearing protection preventative measures include:

  • Avoiding noisy environments and repetitive exposure to loud sounds
  • Wearing ear protection in noisy environments
  • Eating healthily and exercising regularly to prevent diseases like hypertension that put you at risk of hearing loss
  • Controlling your blood sugar if you have diabetes
  • Getting your hearing tested regularly
  • Consulting with your audiologist immediately if you believe you are developing symptoms of age-related hearing loss
Not sure if you have a hearing problem?

If you’ve read this article and find that you’re still unsure about whether you might have an age related hearing loss or not, then answer some of our quick questions, and we can guide you on whether you should go and have your hearing checked


1. Age Related Hearing Loss Symptoms, Causes | Hearing Loss Treatment (
2. Hearing loss in old age (presbycusis) (
3. Is Hearing Loss an Inevitable Part of Aging? : The Hearing Journal (
4. Houri Hearing – Helping you hear the world