Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis)

Image shows 3 generations of women, one with age-related hearing loss

What is age-related hearing loss?

Age-related hearing loss (or presbycusis) occurs gradually during the ageing process. 

This type of hearing loss usually affects both ears. 

Depending on certain factors, age-related hearing loss can start as early as in your 30s or 40s, and usually increases gradually over time.
It’s one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. 

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Book a free test for age-related hearing loss

Book a free hearing test to find out whether you have presbycusis. We’ll explain this kind of hearing loss in more detail and suggest treatment options that are tailored to you.
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Are you older than 55?

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What causes age-related hearing loss?

The main cause of age-related hearing loss is ageing.

It’s usually due to changes in your inner ear which happen as you get older. There are several factors that have an impact on developing age-related hearing loss, such as:

  • Genes
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Side effects of certain drugs and medications
  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Repeated exposure to loud noises

Causes of hearing loss

Did you know?

While men are more likely to develop a hearing loss in higher frequencies, women often have hearing loss in lower frequencies.

The frequency of your hearing loss refers to which sounds you are having trouble hearing: high-pitched or low-pitched.

High-frequency hearing loss

Low-frequency hearing loss

6 common signs and symptoms of age-related hearing loss

The signs and symptoms of age-related hearing loss can vary from person to person, but some of the most common symptoms include:

Image shows a woman struggling to hear conversation in a restaurant due to age related hearing loss
1. Difficulty following group conversations (especially when there’s background noise)
Image shows an older man who cannot hear the tannoy at an airport due to age related hearing loss
2. Trouble understanding speech over loudspeakers in public places – such as in an airport or at work
Image shows noisy roadworks and traffic that can be more irritating to those suffering from hearing loss
3. Loud noises are more irritating than they used to be
Image shows a woman struggling to keep up with a conversation because of untreated hearing loss
4. Sounds seem unclear or people sound like they are mumbling
Mens voices are deeper and easier to hear for people with a hearing loss
5. Low-pitched voices seem easier to hear than high-pitched voices
Image shows a woman suffering from tinnitus
6. You hear ringing or buzzing sounds in your ears (tinnitus)
image shows man and audiologist

How is age-related hearing loss treated?

If you have age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), the best treatment will depend on your overall health, age and the severity of the loss.

The most common treatment for age-related hearing loss is hearing aids, but the treatment may also include using assistive devices and/or learning lip reading techniques.

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How can you protect your hearing as you age?

Age-related hearing loss is irreversible, so prevention is really important. Some of the most effective ways to help prevent it include:

  • Avoiding (or reducing exposure to) excessively loud noises
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Seeking treatment for hearing health conditions (such as ear infections)
  • Wearing ear protection in loud environments (e.g. ear plugs or ear defenders)

Hearing loss and dementia

Age-related hearing loss FAQs

Hidden Hearing audiologist Jen Canham
Jennie Canham, Hearing Aid Audiologist and Ceruminologist

Jennie Canham qualified in Audiology in 2003 and has been working in the private sector for over 19 years. She specialises in hearing aid rehabilitation, tinnitus therapy and is also fully qualified in both water irrigation and micro-suction. Jennie is also qualified in British Sign Language. Jennie works in Hidden Hearing’s Leigh-on-Sea hearing centre.