How Aging and Disease Affect Hearing

By Lisa Tseng, MD

Both age and disease play a major role in hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis and is often caused by changes in the inner ear over time. It may also be caused by changes in the blood supply to the ear because of heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. With presbycusis, sounds often seem less clear and lower in volume, contributing to difficulty hearing and understanding speech. Because the loss is gradual, people who have presbycusis may not realize that their hearing is diminishing. That's why it is important to check your hearing regularly.

Diseases such as mumps, measles, mononucleosis, influenza, meningitis, herpes and syphilis are also hearing loss causes, and may even lead to deafness. What's more, some medications (e.g., chemotherapy agents, antibiotics, aspirin) can contribute to loss of hearing. Please consult your doctor if you're suffering from any of these diseases or taking any of these medications.

Hearing loss is common - impacting 48 million Americans. The good news is over 90% of people with hearing loss can benefit tremendously from the use of hearing aids. If you have trouble hearing, ask your doctor for a hearing test or call toll-free at 855-523-9355 to find a provider near you. Treating hearing loss early helps the brain maintain speech understanding, resulting in a better outcome.