6 Things That Speed Up Age-Related Hearing Loss

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Senior Caucasian man holding fingers to ear
  • Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis causes gradual hearing loss as people grow older. The hearing loss usually affects both ears. Few people notice it at first. Eventually, they realize they have problems, such as following conversations or hearing their name on the phone. This type of hearing loss typically results from changes in the inner ear and auditory nerve with age. However, most people with age-related hearing loss also have other issues that speed up or contribute to hearing loss.

  • 1
    Earwax
    Close-up of Caucasian man grimacing with finger in ear

    Earwax has many helpful functions. It keeps the ear canal clean and protects it from infection, injury and water. However, it can build up and cause a condition called impacted earwax. This buildup can partially or completely block the ear canal, causing hearing problems.

    Removing the earwax will restore normal hearing. If you have medical conditions that lead to earwax impaction, your doctor may recommend treatments to soften earwax. You may also need to schedule regular ear cleanings with your provider to prevent impaction and hearing problems.

  • 2
    Heredity
    Multi-generational family of African American men walking outdoors

    Hearing loss can occur as a result of genetics. Most people think of inherited hearing loss as a birth defect or something that affects children. But there are genetic forms of hearing loss that strike during adulthood. Otosclerosis is one of them. The condition causes abnormal bone growth in the middle ear, which keeps sound waves from traveling normally to the inner ear. Hearing problems are the result. Talk with your doctor if hereditary hearing loss runs in your family.

  • 3
    Loud Noise
    Senior Caucasian couple in crowd at professional racetrack

    Noise-related hearing loss comes from exposure to loud noises. This exposure damages structures in the inner ear, sometimes permanently. Sounds are generally safe when they do not exceed 75 decibels. However, sounds over 85 decibels can cause noise-related hearing loss. Examples include:

    • Motorcycles: 95 decibels

    • MP3 player maximum volume and concerts: 105-110 decibels

    • Sports events: 100 decibels

    You can prevent noise-related hearing loss: Wear ear protection. Turn down the volume. And move away from loud noises.

  • 4
    Medical Conditions
    Man testing glucose before meal

    Some medical conditions that become more common as you age can contribute to hearing loss. Examples include diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. A common link between these conditions is blood vessel damage. Damage to the small blood vessels of the inner ear can cause hearing problems. With diabetes, high blood sugar can also damage nerves, such as the auditory nerve. The best way to slow hearing loss from chronic medical conditions is to effectively treat and control them.

  • 5
    Medications
    man-sitting-on-couch-holding-glass-of-water-and-pill

    Medications that cause hearing loss are called ototoxic drugs. There are more than 200 medicines with this side effect. The list includes aspirin and certain antibiotics, cancer chemotherapy drugs, and diuretics. Some of these drugs cause permanent hearing damage, while others have a temporary effect. Sometimes, hearing problems are related to the dose of the medicine.

    Your healthcare providers should monitor for hearing problems if you are on an ototoxic drug. You may need periodic hearing tests. And be sure to report any changes you notice.

  • 6
    Ruptured Eardrum
    Older Caucasian woman getting ear exam from female Caucasian ear, nose and throat doctor

    A ruptured or punctured eardrum is a hole or tear in it. This can happen from an infection, trauma, or high pressure on the eardrum. Pressure can come from excessive noise or sudden changes in air pressure, such as with air travel or scuba diving. A ruptured eardrum can cause hearing loss and other symptoms, such as pain and ringing in the ear.

    Most of the time, a ruptured eardrum will heal on its own and hearing will return. You can help prevent a ruptured eardrum by treating infections, keeping foreign objects out of your ear, and protecting your ears from loud noise and pressure changes.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  2. Common Drugs and Their Mechanisms of Ototoxicity. Pharmacy Times. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/contributor/jola-mehmeti-pharmd-mba-candidate-2018/2018/02/common-drugs-and-their-mechanisms-of-ototoxicity
  3. Diabetes and Hearing Loss. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/seniors/diabetes-and-hearing-loss.html
  4. Hearing Loss: A Common Problem for Older Adults. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults#causes
  5. Hearing Loss Is Common in People with Diabetes. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/hearing-loss-common-people-diabetes
  6. Impacted Earwax. Cedars-Sinai. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/i/impacted-earwax.html
  7. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss
  8. Otosclerosis. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/otosclerosis
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  11. What Noises Cause Hearing Loss? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/what_noises_cause_hearing_loss.html