The most common causes of hearing loss in Exton are aging and noise exposure. Hearing protection can help prevent hearing damage from noise, but there is little you can do to stop age-related hearing loss (medically termed presbycusis). The results of a new study help shed light on the genes responsible for hearing decline in our advanced years.
Why Hearing Declines with Age
Hearing loss affects 48 million Americans; that translates to roughly one out of every five people in Exton. The majority are older; it is estimated that 25 percent of people aged 65 to 74 experiences presbycusis. About half of all individuals aged 75 or older has hearing loss to some degree. This is the result of a lifetime of constant noise exposure, much of it unavoidable. Excess noise destroys the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that are responsible for hearing; once damaged, these cells will not regenerate and can’t be repaired. Genetics often play a significant role in hearing loss, as well.
Left untreated, hearing loss can cause serious physical, social and psychological problems. These include stress, fatigue, depression, isolation, memory impairment, dementia, kidney problems, diabetes and an increased risk of balance disorders.
A study published in the journal PLOS Biology has experts hopeful for a solution to the problem of age-related hearing loss. Karen Steel, a neuroscientist at King’s College in London, led a team of researchers interested in studying the underlying causes of progressive hearing loss. They examined 1,200 mice, each with a different gene mutation, testing the hearing abilities of each mouse in an attempt and paying careful attention to the brain cells responsible for processing sound in order to detect even mild forms of hearing loss.
Researchers were able to identify 38 new genes responsible for hearing loss; a little over three percent of the 1,211 genes tested in the mice. Given that tens of thousands of genes exist in total, scientists estimate there are around 1,000 that may be associated with hearing loss. In addition, 10 genes were discovered that can help maintain hearing with age.
Says Steel, “Our results tell us that there are a large number of genes involved in deafness…and many different types of abnormality of the auditory system that can lead to hearing loss.” She believes this makes a “one-size-fits-all” treatment for hearing loss all but impossible but is encouraged that better diagnostic tools can be developed to better distinguish between different types of hearing problems. Additionally, identifying and classifying the genes that are responsible for early-onset hearing loss may someday help doctors take a proactive approach to treating – and possibly even preventing – hearing-loss related to aging.
For more information on age-related hearing loss, talk to your Exton audiologist.