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It is common knowledge that our hearing, like other parts of the body, deteriorates as we get older. Age-related hearing loss occurs in approximately 30% of adults between 65 and 74 years old. This increases to 40-50% over the age of 75.  With such a high prevalence, understanding the effect of age on our hearing is vital. How does age affect hearing?

The organ of hearing, the cochlea, is found in the inner ear. This snail-shell shaped organ is the size of a pea, and contains tiny hair cells, which move in response to sound, sending a message via the auditory nerve to the brain. Those tiny hair cells are arranged tonotopically- this means that the highest pitched (treble) sounds are responded to at the entrance to the cochlea, and the deeper tones are responded to further into the cochlea.

As we age, the hair cells that respond to the highest pitch sounds receive the most traffic- as all sounds travel past them before reaching the areas that they stimulate. This is why most people with age-related hearing loss experience loss in the high-pitched sounds first. People may not realise that they are losing their high frequency hearing until much later on. Signs of age-related hearing include difficulty hearing in background noise, not hearing the doorbell ring, or feeling like people around you are mumbling.

It is important to have your hearing tested regularly as you age, to monitor any hearing changes that may occur now or later in life. A full diagnostic hearing assessment should be performed by a registered Audiologist. How age affects hearing can be different for different people, so a personal test is highly recommended.

Comment below with any questions or to share your experiences of age-related hearing loss, or contact us for help.