Aging and Tinnitus
Aging and tinnitus are inherently correlated to each other. The reason behind that correlation is pretty straightforward; tinnitus is a symptom of hearing loss, which is most commonly caused by aging. Since aging is the most common cause of hearing loss, and hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus, that means aging has the biggest effect on tinnitus out of anything.
Why Does Aging Cause Tinnitus?
Aging is the most common cause of hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is more likely to occur the older you are. This is primarily because over time, loud noise exposure damages the cilia (small hairs that allow you to sense sound inputs) in your ear.
Damaged cilia cannot be repaired or replaced with current medicine, which means that hearing damage is often permanent.
Hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus. Currently, around 1 in 10 Americans report having some level of tinnitus. For those with hearing loss, the rate of people with tinnitus is much higher. According to Dr. Gayla Poling, Director of Adult and Pediatric Diagnostics in Audiology at Mayo Clinic, up to 90% of people with tinnitus report having hearing loss.
The data makes it clear that tinnitus is extremely prevalent in people with hearing loss, which is a direct result of aging.
Does Tinnitus Get Worse The Older You Get?
Source: National Institute of Health. Tinnitus in elderly population.
Based on the data, tinnitus appears to be most prevalent from the ages of 40 to 60 (range not pictured here). In the above chart you can see that tinnitus actually goes down from the ages of 64 and onward, with a steep decline in prevalence occurring after age 80.
Another study published by the National Institute of Health found that for moderately high-pitch tinnitus, people age 40-60 had the highest prevalence of symptoms, with people above 60 next and people below 40 as least likely.
What Should I Do If I Think I Have Tinnitus?
If you think you or a loved one has tinnitus, we recommend consulting an audiologist who can help you to diagnose and treat tinnitus. This can give you insight into what type of tinnitus you have, what the cause of it is, and what your best treatment options may be.
Tinnitus can have a significant impact on lifestyle and mental health, so it’s important to know you aren’t alone and there are treatment options available.
For more information, read our article “Tinnitus Treatments”.
The Bottom Line
Aging and tinnitus are inherently linked together, just like hearing loss and tinnitus are. People aged 40-60 are the most likely to experience tinnitus symptoms, with people aged 60 or older being the next most likely bracket.
If you think you have age-related hearing loss or tinnitus, consult an audiologist for a proper diagnosis.
Senior Editor, Audien Hearing