• Presbycusis

    (Age-Related Hearing Loss)


    Presbycusis is gradual hearing loss in both ears that commonly occurs as people age. This form of gradual hearing loss can be mild, moderate, or severe. Presbycusis that leads to permanent hearing loss may be referred to as nerve deafness.
    The Ear
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    There are several causes of presbycusis including:
    • Gradual degeneration of the inner ear
    • Changes the bone structure of the ear, a condition called otosclerosis
    • Changes in the hearing nerve pathways in the ear leading to the brain
    • Repeated exposure to loud sounds, music, or equipment which can damage the fragile hair cells within the inner ear involved in hearing
    • Hereditary or genetic influences

    Risk Factors

    Presbycusis is more common in men, and in people over 75 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of presbycusis include:
    • Family history of gradual hearing loss with advancing age
    • Noise exposure
    • Smoking
    • Having certain health conditions, such as:
      • Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or other circulatory problems
      • Diabetes
      • Otosclerosis
      • Thyroid diseases
      • Trauma
      • Vestibular schwannoma
      • Infection
      • A bone disorder called Paget's disease


    Presbycusis may cause:
    • Noticeable loss of hearing of higher-pitched sounds, such as female voices, telephone ringing, or bird calls
    • Sounds that appear less clear and sharp
    • Difficulty understanding conversations, particularly in noisy places or while speaking on the telephone
    • Ringing in one or both ears—tinnitus
    • Background sounds appear overly loud or bothersome
    • Ear fullness with or without vertigo, a feeling of spinning when you are not moving
    With presbycusis, hearing loss is usually very gradual, affecting both ears equally.


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will perform a visual exam of your ear canal and eardrum with a lighted instrument called an otoscope.
    Tests may include the following:
    • Rinne test—to test if hearing loss the hearing loss is nerve related
    • Weber test—to determine if the hearing loss is one-sided
    • Audiometry—to determine level and extent of hearing loss


    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

    Hearing Aids and Assistive Listening Devices

    If it is determined that a hearing aid may be useful, the audiologist will conduct several tests to determine the type of hearing aid that will best improve hearing of speech. The extent of benefit varies according to the cause and degree of hearing loss. Sometimes hearing aids will need to be replaced with other models if hearing loss progresses. Some people with presbycusis may benefit from telephone amplifiers that help hear speech on the telephone.

    Cochlear Implants

    For certain people with very severe hearing loss that is not improved by a simple hearing aid, a cochlear implant device may improve sound generation to the brain. It may provide partial hearing to the profoundly deaf.


    To help reduce your chance of presbycusis:
    • Follow treatment plans that help manage health conditions that may cause hearing loss.
    • Avoid repeated exposure to loud noises and sounds of any type, including those at work, home, and during recreation.
    • When working with loud machinery or in loud environments, wear protective ear plugs or ear muffs.
    • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about how you can quit.


    American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery http://www.entnet.org

    American Tinnitus Association http://www.ata.org


    The Canadian Hearing Society http://www.chs.ca

    Canadian Society of Otolaryngology http://www.entcanada.org


    Canadian Hearing Society http://www.chs.ca

    Canadian Society of Otolaryngology http://www.csohns.com


    Age-related hearing loss. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) website. Available at: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/Pages/Age-Related-Hearing-Loss.aspx. Updated November 2013. Accessed August 10, 2015.

    Gates GA, Mills JH. Presbycusis. Lancet. 2005;366(9491):1111-1120.

    Hearing impairment in the elderly. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 1, 2014. Accessed September 25, 2014.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.