Age related hearing loss

Presbycusis is the term given for the natural deterioration in our hearing as we get older, where with increasing years the ears become progressively less sensitive with the losses being most significant at the higher frequencies.

What does this mean in practice? Over time our ability to hear all frequencies deteriorates but the higher frequencies fall off more quickly than the lower range. As a lot of speech is located in this higher frequency range of the the most visible effects is an increasing difficulty in distinguishing what other people are saying clearly, in effect the noise made when people talk becomes a lower-pitch mumble and indistinct. (Sounds such as 'c', 's', 't', etc. - all of which give words their definition).

As a guide to the scale of this loss, the two graphs below show the approximate limits we would accept as natural hearing loss for an average male and an average female - think of these as the referral limits - too much loss beyond this is a cause for concern. As you can see, by the ages of 65 the loss in hearing ability is significant, and is much more pronounced in men than in women. Each line on the graph corresponds to an age as indicated to the right of the graps. Frequency is measured in kHz.

Presbycusis - natural hearing loss in men


Presbycusis - age related hearing loss in women

As a very rough guide at the age of 65 a man is showing a loss of around 70dB at the 4KHz frequency, while a woman has lost around 58dB at the same point. This loss in itself is significant and if a younger person was to suddenly go from their normal hearing to the ability of a 65 year old the losses would sound profound.

As for workplace noise and audiometry, the risk arises from the effect of combining this natural deterioration with the losses caused by excessive noise levels, accelerating the rate of deterioration with the loss being greatest in the all-important speech zone.

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