Does Aging Lead to Hearing Loss? Let’s Investigate.

By Dr. Anne Simon

June 23, 2016

It is common to present the image that aging and hearing loss go together like Summer and heat in the Valley. Marketing images of hearing loss—depicting a person cupping their hand to their ear and leaning—tend to use older models. And, if you spend enough time in front of an Audiology practice, you’ll notice that patients tend to be older.

But, the correlation between aging and hearing loss isn’t as straightforward. To understand why, we should take a look at what hearing loss looks like from inside the ear. The hearing organ is called the cochlea. Inside the cochlea, there are 12 thousand microscopic hair cells that dance and vibrate in response to sound. Their movement sends signals to the brain to be interpreted. Different regions of hair cells correlate to different frequencies of sound.

If the cochlear hair cells that respond to the higher pitches do not move properly, you will have trouble hearing consonants such as ‘s’ or ‘f’ well and speech will not be clear. If the hair cells that respond to lower pitches are not moving properly, vowels will be harder to hear and voices will sound too soft.

Now, let’s consider what causes the cochlear hair cells to stop moving as they were designed by nature to do. Loud sound will damage the hair cells. The older we are the more hours we can rack up around damaging noise. Our genetic code may say at xx years your will start to have hearing loss. Diabetes is associated with hearing loss. Smokers are more likely to have trouble hearing.

So, eat well, be healthy, use your ear plugs and do not smoke. If you are not hearing well or have difficulty communicating, see an Audiologist for an evaluation.

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