Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis)

Online Q&A
February 2013

What are the early indications of age related hearing loss (presbycusis)?

In the initial stages, a person with hearing loss may have difficulty in understanding words. He/she is often able to hear the sounds but unable to make out the words. This may be more evident when the background noise is high (eg in a restaurant).

Such a person may also start speaking in a louder voice than normal, without being aware of it.

A ringing sensation in the ear (tinnitus) and inability to hear high pitched sounds can also indicate presbycusis.

When should I get my ears tested?

You should get your ears tested if:

  • you often have to ask people to repeat themselves
  • find yourself raising the volume of the television to higher than normal levels
  • regularly miss parts of conversations
  • experience a ringing sensation in the ear (tinnitus)
  • people tell you that you are speaking loudly.

Can age-related hearing loss be reversed? Can it be treated?

Age related hearing loss cannot be reversed, as it is caused by degeneration of sensory cells, which occurs with age. However, it can be treated effectively by use of hearing aids and other communication devices.

What measures can help me to prevent or delay the onset of hearing loss in my old age?

Taking good care of your ears and following good ear and hearing practices such as:

  • protecting your ears from loud sounds;
  • never inserting anything into your ear or instill any liquids, other than medicines prescribed by a trained health care personnel;
  • in case of pain in the ear or ear-discharge, seeking medical treatment urgently;
  • eating healthy food and exercising well to avoid diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, that predispose to development of hearing loss; and
  • avoiding cigarette smoking.

My parents have hearing loss. What care should I take when speaking with them?

When you speak to a person with hearing loss, make sure that:

  • you face them while speaking
  • your face is neither covered nor in the dark when you speak
  • don't speak with your mouth full
  • speak in a loud, clear voice, but don't shout
  • try to minimize the background noise by turning off the television or radio.