How to Prevent Loss of Hearing with Age


Do you find that you’re asking others to speak up because you can’t catch everything they’re saying? Or raising the volume of your television or other devices? You may be suffering from age-related hearing loss. This may be upsetting, but rest assured you’re not alone. 

About one-third of US adults between the ages of 65 and 75 have age-related hearing loss, called presbycusis. Nearly 50% of adults over the age of 75 have trouble hearing. 

The good news is there are things you can do to improve your ability to hear at any age. 

What Causes a Loss of Hearing with Age?

When we hear something, the tiny hair cells inside our ears pick up sound vibrations and convert them into electrical signals. Those signals are sent to your brain, which interprets exactly what you’re hearing, whether it’s music, words, or another sound. 

With age, those hair cells can become damaged or break down, which can affect how well you hear. In addition, changes in the structures of the ear, such as the stiffening of the ear bones or a decrease in blood flow, can contribute to age-related hearing loss.

Factors beyond aging alone can also affect hearing. Exposure to loud noises, lifestyle habits like smoking, certain medications, and health conditions like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension) can all play a role. Plus, there’s a genetic component to hearing loss, meaning it can run in families.

How Do You Know If Your Hearing is Starting to Go?

While each person is different, signs and symptoms of age-related hearing loss can include:

  • Trouble Hearing in Noisy Environments: You may find yourself needing to ask people to repeat themselves in a loud restaurant.
  • Feeling Like You Have Mufflers on Your Ears: You notice that other people’s voices sound quieter, muffled, or slurred.
  • Trouble Hearing High-Pitched Sounds: Noises at higher frequencies, such as a bird’s chirping, can become more difficult to hear. For the same reason, you may find that men’s voices are easier to hear than women’s. 
  • Ringing or Buzzing Sounds in Your Ears: Called tinnitus, you can experience these noises in one or both of your ears. 
  • Balance Issues. Inner ear issues can affect your balance.

If you or someone you know is beginning to experience these symptoms, it’s important to get a hearing test. Many big retailers offer free hearing tests, or you can speak to your doctor about recommendations.

Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

Hearing loss is more than an annoyance. It can also affect other parts of your health, including your brain. 

Studies have found that hearing loss is linked with cognitive decline and dementia in older adults. That’s because our brains need to be able to hear sounds clearly to pay attention and remember information.

When you have hearing loss, your brain must work harder to understand and figure out incomplete sounds. Over time, that can affect your cognitive function. 

For these reasons, it’s important to address your hearing decline. 

Can Age-Related Hearing Loss Be Reversed?

While a loss of hearing with age is typically permanent, there are many things you can do to improve your hearing and quality of life.

Hearing aids can help to make sounds louder. Plus, they can be adjusted to fit your specific hearing needs—whether it’s helping to amplify low- or high-pitched noises or to hear other types of sounds more clearly. Yet, while statistics show that 28.8 million US adults could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than 30% of those aged 70 or older actually use them. 

Lifestyle modifications can also help with managing hearing loss. These can include limiting exposure to loud noises, getting regular exercise, and eating a balanced diet, as well as doing activities that help to keep your brain sharp.

Most importantly, if you suspect you are experiencing hearing loss, schedule an appointment with an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. It’s important to get your hearing checked on a regular basis, since the volume of sounds and their frequency (high- or low-pitched they are) can change over time. 

You Can Maintain Your Hearing for a Lifetime

While hearing loss may be part of the aging process for many people, it doesn’t have to affect your quality of life. Recognizing the signs of hearing loss, getting your hearing checked, and getting hearing aids or another hearing assistance device can help to ensure you don’t miss out on anything you deserve to hear!