Photo credit: ELEVATE

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This piece in Health Digest has an intriguing title but really doesn’t answer the question, “Why does our hearing diminish as we age?”

I’ll give the answer, though. Unlike inevitable changes associated with aging, such as thinning, graying hair, hearing loss with age is not part of normal physiological aging, but largely represents noise-induced hearing loss. I presented a paper about this at the 12th Congress of the International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise in Zurich and wrote about this in The Hearing Journal. My 2017 conclusion, based on a review of the scientific literature, that the terms presbycusis or age-related hearing loss were inaccurate, was confirmed by research from the the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Why does this matter? If something associated with aging is inevitable, as with thinning, graying hair, that isn’t anything we can change. But if something associated with aging is caused by lack of exercise, weight gain, bad diet, or exposures to sun or sound, we can change the outcome by modifying our behavior. Deep wrinkles, pigment changes, and skin cancers are not inevitable as we age, but can be avoided by avoiding too much sun exposure.

And hearing loss with age can be avoided by avoiding too much noise exposure.

If it sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your auditory health is at risk.

Turn down the volume, use hearing protection, or leave the noisy environment now, or need hearing aids later.