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Health Information

Senile deafness


Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) or senile deafness is an age-related hearing loss due to degenerative processes in the nerve cells of the cochlea, which often occurs in the elderly. The hearing loss associated with presbycusis limits social life and interaction with others, which can lead to loneliness and depression due to social isolation. The most common cause of age-related hearing loss is degenerative changes in hair cells and auditory nerves caused by the aging process. There is usually no structural abnormality in the transmission of sound to the auditory nerve, but sound is not transmitted properly due to degeneration of the nerve tissue. This type of hearing loss is known as sensorineural hearing loss. Other factors such as noise exposure, tobacco use, ototoxic medications and metabolic disorders can also influence the development of this problem.


Patients suffering from senile deafness initially experience a deterioration in their ability to perceive high-frequency sounds such as the consonants “s”, “sh”, “ch”, “p”, “h”. Gradually, as their symptoms worsen, they develop difficulty in perceiving low-frequency sounds. The progression of hearing loss is gradual and can vary depending on the cause. When the hearing loss affects the high-frequency range, there is difficulty distinguishing between similar words, such as “cat” and “that” (or, for example, “pab” and “pam” in Korean, meaning rice and night). If the hearing loss extends into the low-frequency range, the ability to perceive sounds is significantly impaired. The person stops hearing soft sounds and may experience discomfort with sounds that are too high or too loud. They may also experience tinnitus in one or both ears. Hearing loss can make it very difficult to communicate with others, which can lead to social isolation or depression.


Diagnosis of hearing loss in the elderly involves a hearing test after consultation with a medical professional. This involves a thorough examination of the external ear canal and tympanic membrane to detect structural abnormalities. Other tests include tonal audiometry and speech hearing tests. The most common diagnostic method is tonal threshold audiometry, which serves as the standard for assessing and classifying the degree of hearing loss. This test measures the hearing threshold for various frequencies ranging from low to high.

A speech hearing test is a test that uses speech sounds to assess the patient’s ability to correctly perceive common words used in everyday life at a sound level that is comfortable to hear. In severe sensorineural hearing loss, the accuracy of speech perception is impaired and there is also difficulty in perceiving faint sounds. Additional tests include imaging tests and other medical examinations.

Treatment and course of the disease

When it comes to treating age-related hearing loss, it should be noted that hearing loss progresses slowly, so people often do not feel much discomfort and do not give much thought to the fact that their hearing is impaired. The best treatment for age-related hearing loss is the use of hearing aids, but their use is limited because many people consider hearing loss to be a normal manifestation of aging or because of the stereotypes regarding hearing aids. If moderate to severe hearing loss is left untreated, accidents can occur due to the inability to hear warning sounds signaling danger. Likewise, social isolation can lead to depression and dementia, so appropriate treatment and rehabilitation are very important. If hearing loss cannot be corrected with hearing aids, cochlear implant surgery should be considered. Other methods of correcting hearing loss may include rehabilitation techniques for hearing loss.

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