To study the mechanism of disappearance of the physiologic third heart sound (S3) with advancing age, combined phonoechocardiographic and phonomechanocardiographic recordings from 165 normal subjects between 6 and 62 years old were quantitatively analyzed. Nearly all individuals under 40 years old had a recordable S3. Although recordable in 38.6% of the 44 subjects over 40 years old, the physiologic S3 found in adults was less intense and occurred later in diastole when compared with that in children and adolescents. Marked changes in left ventricular filling hemodynamics were observed with aging, including an increase in left ventricular wall thickness and mass, a prolongation of the left ventricular isovolumetric relaxation period, a decrease in left ventricular early diastolic filling and wall thinning rates, and a reduction in the height and steepness of the rapid filling wave measured on the calibrated left apexcardiogram (linear correlation with age significant at p less than .001 for all parameters). Although less pronounced, these changes were very similar to the diastolic abnormalities found in patients with pressure overload left ventricular hypertrophy. Therefore, the higher pressure load imposed on the left ventricular wall due to the well-known gradual increase in blood pressure that occurs during normal growth and adulthood appears to be the most likely explanation for the observed changes in diastolic filling. It is concluded that the later occurrence, the diminishing amplitude, and the eventual complete disappearance of the physiologic S3 with age results from a decrease in early diastolic left ventricular filling and subsequent deceleration of inflow caused by the development of relative left ventricular hypertrophy in adulthood as compared with childhood.