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Hearing Loss


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Feb 2021| Content last modified Feb 2021
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What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss—a reduced ability to hear sound—makes daily life and communication harder. You may lose some or all of your hearing in one or both ears. If you've lost only some hearing, you may just think people aren't speaking clearly. Or you may notice only that it's hard to understand people talking when you're in a loud room, like at a party or restaurant.

What causes hearing loss?

The most common causes of hearing loss include:

Less common causes of hearing loss include:

When should I see a doctor for hearing loss?

See a doctor right away if you have hearing loss along with any of these warning signs:

  • Hearing loss in only one ear

  • Difficulty chewing or speaking

  • Numbness in your face

  • Dizziness

  • Loss of balance

If you have none of these warning signs and no other symptoms, you should see a doctor, but it doesn't have to be right away.

What will happen at my doctor visit?

Doctors will ask questions about your hearing loss and other symptoms. They'll ask about your health history and any medicines you take. They'll examine your ears and do hearing tests such as:

  • Audiometry (you'll wear headphones and raise your hand when you hear a sound; the goal is to measure the quietest sound you can hear)

  • Speech threshold tests (you'll hear words spoken at different volumes to test how loud they have to be before you can understand them)

  • Discrimination tests (two words that sound a lot alike will be spoken one after the other to test how well you can tell them apart)

  • Tympanometry (sound waves will be bounced off your eardrum to test how well sound passes through your ear)

For children with hearing loss, doctors will check to see if:

  • They talk and understand language as well as they should for their age

How do doctors treat hearing loss?

Doctors treat the cause of your hearing loss if possible.

Other things that can help with hearing loss include:

How can I prevent hearing loss?

To prevent hearing loss, you can:

  • Limit contact with loud noise, including both how loud it is and how long you hear it

  • Use ear protectors, such as earplugs or noise-blocking earmuffs, when you have to be around loud noises

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