Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is a progressive loss of the ability to hear high frequencies, which occurs as people get older. 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 does appear to be a genetic condition, as it tends to occur in families.
The number of nerve cells in the middle ear may begin to decline as early as age 30 or 40, 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.
Last Revised: April 13, 2011
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Steven T. Kmucha, MD - Otolaryngology
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