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Hearing Loss

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss affects millions of adults in the U.S. Many things can harm hearing. Things that help lead to hearing loss include age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), exposure to loud noise, and hereditary causes. Older adults are the largest group affected by hearing loss. This can happen from:

  • Too much noise

  • Certain medicines

  • Infections caused by bacteria or viruses

  • Head injury

  • Head tumors

  • Stroke

  • Inherited conditions

One in 3 older adults over age 60 has hearing loss. Nearly half of people ages 75 to 85 have hearing loss.

When sudden hearing loss occurs, it's important to contact your healthcare provider right away. Your provider will do a medical exam and a hearing exam as soon as possible to help find the cause and type of your sudden hearing loss. Based on your diagnosis, your provider will discuss possible treatments.

Treatment for hearing loss

In some people, hearing loss can be corrected with surgery. For others, medical devices and hearing aids often can help improve hearing loss.

To find what's causing your hearing loss, and how to manage it, see your healthcare provider for a complete exam. If you think you have hearing loss, answer these questions:

  • Do you have a problem hearing when you're on the phone?

  • Do you have trouble following the conversation when 2 or more people are talking at the same time?

  • Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?

  • Do you have to strain to understand conversation?

  • Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background?

  • Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?

  • Do many people you talk to seem to mumble or not speak clearly?

  • Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?

  • Do you have trouble understanding when women and children talk?

  • Do people get annoyed because you misunderstand what they say?

  • Do friends or relatives express concern about your hearing ability?

  • Do you hear a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound a lot?   

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions, you may want to see a healthcare provider. You can see an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT or otolaryngologist) or an audiologist for a hearing assessment.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dan Brennan MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sumana Jothi MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2023
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