Sensorineural hearing loss is mainly due to disorders of the inner ear, auditory nerve, and central nervous system. The most common sensorineural hearing loss is the age-related inner ear hearing loss, presbycusis. It is one of the leading hearing losses in the elderly which can disrupt the daily tasks and mental health of patients and those around them.
Presbycusis (age-related sensorineural hearing loss or hard-of-hearing in the elderly) is caused by degeneration of the inner ear. The condition gradually develops with balanced bilateral hearing loss with no associated symptoms. It may take years for the condition to progress until the patients and those around them become aware of the hearing impairment. Some may also experience tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Some may lose the ability to comprehend, they can hear sound but are unable to understand the speech due to age-related dementia.
Symptoms and diagnosis
The diagnosis includes an examination of outer and middle ears. Audiogram is to evaluate for the deteriorating ability of hearing which affect hearing of high-frequency sound more than low-frequency in the beginning. However, in later stages. the hearing ability of multiple frequencies decrease. This condition commonly begins in people over 50 years old and increase with advancing ages. According to research, presbycusis occurs in 10% of people aged 44-54, 25% of 55-64 and 40% of 65-84 age group.
Since the condition is age-related, it cannot be addressed at its cause; however, it is preventable. There is evidence that hearing difficulty is a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Patients who have hearing problems affecting their daily activities should see a doctor for diagnosis, treatment, and audiologic rehabilitation with hearing aids and receive guidance for ear care and improvement of room acoustics such as cutting down noise pollution, communicating with people by being directly fronting them, asking them not to talk too fast or long. These can prevent dementia and improve the mental health of the elderly and those around them.
Dr Phakanun Tanamittramanee