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J Korean Med Assoc > Volume 54(9); 2011 > Article
Journal of the Korean Medical Association 2011;54(9):910-917.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5124/jkma.2011.54.9.910   
Age-related hearing loss and the effects of hearing aids The current state of age-related hearing loss in South Korea
Jeesun Choi, Won Ho Chung, Hyun Woo Lim, Sung Won Chae
1Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. whchung@skku.edu
2Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. schae@kumc.or.kr
Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is the progressive hearing loss that occurs as people get older. With presbycusis, the hearing threshold is increased, especially at high frequencies and speech perception is decreased in noisy environments. In addition, presbycusis may have adverse effects on the cognitive, behavioral, and psychosocial functioning of the elderly. They may feel social isolation, depression, and loss of self-esteem. The pathophysiology of presbycusis is explained by age-related changes in the inner ear, the auditory system and the central nervous system. There is no single cause of presbycusis. It is a complex disease influenced by genetic, environmental, and psychosocial factors, as well as medical conditions. Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting the elderly. The population aged 65 years and older is now increasing at a rapid rate. Approximately 40% of people over 75 years of age are suffering from hearing loss. Because presbycusis is permanent and irreversible, there is no specific treatment to restore hearing loss. Because hearing loss in the elderly is closely related with quality of life, prevention and hearing rehabilitation programs using hearing aids are very important. In an aging society like Korea, an increase in social costs is inevitable for the welfare of the elderly. In particular, prevention and rehabilitation programs for hearing loss will play important roles in this perspective. The inevitable deterioration in hearing ability that occurs with age, age-related hearing loss (ARHL) or presbycusis, is a multifactorial process that can vary in severity from mild to profound. The number of cases of age-related hearing loss is growing due to the rapid growth of South Korea's aging population. According to the Korean Health Statistics of 2009, the incidence of unilateral hearing loss in people aged 65 or older is 17.5 percent, while the incidence of bilateral hearing loss exceeds 25.9 percent. Left untreated, age-related hearing loss of a moderate or greater degree affects communication and can decrease quality of life. Comprehensive rehabilitation by hearing aids or cochlear implant are widely available but underused in part because of social attitudes that undervalue the effect of hearing on life, in addition to the cost and stigma associated with hearing aids. Proper screening tests for ARHL should be developed and primary care physicians should screen and refer their elderly patients for assessment and remediation. In addition, development of hearing aids with a low cost of distribution and an increase in the size of government subsidies to hearing aids are imperative.
Key Words: Presbycusis, Prevention & control, Rehabilitation, Hearing aids, Presbycusis, Rehabilitation, Korea


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