Today, it is estimated that the number of patients suffering from slow deterioration of hearing (presbycusis) in France amounts to about 4 - 5 million, but it will increase significantly over the next 10 years.
The progressive age-related hearing loss (or presbycusis) manifests itself first in decreased perception of high-pitched sounds, causing significant discomfort in noisy places and difficulty in following conversations. Often, people affected by hearing loss also complain of ear buzzing or tinnitus. Over time, this phenomenon gets worse and includes more low-pitched sounds. The hearing impairment progresses very slowly, without the patient being aware of it. After 60 years of age, one person out of four suffers from troublesome presbycusis in two-thirds of cases.
Presbycusis requires early diagnosis, performed by an experienced ENT specialist. This diagnosis is based on tonal and vocal audiometry, which will accurately quantify deafness.
The tonal audiogram assesses the hearing loss by successively stimulating both ears. This examination provides the study of sound perception thresholds, by testing different frequencies with the help of sounds transmitted by air through special headphones.
Vocal audiometry assesses the ability to understand speech and identifies the discomfort associated with deafness. It is performed by means of a list of words that include all the phonemes of the language: a recording asks the patient to repeat a series of ten words, pronounced at different intensity levels. The percentage of words understood is shown on a diagram.
After tonal and vocal audiometry, the ENT physician prescribes a hearing aid, if possible in stereophony, since the hearing impairment entails comprehension problems.
Hearing aids are electronic amplifiers and are available as behind-the-ear, in-the-ear or digital hearing aids. Your ENT specialist will help you choose the most suitable hearing aid for your hearing loss.