Hearing loss is a decreased ability to hear. There are two main categories of hearing loss:
Causes of conductive hearing loss include:
Causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors for hearing loss include:
Symptoms may include:
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Call your doctor if you notice hearing loss. You should especially call if you also have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:
This is probably the simplest, easiest treatment for hearing loss.
There are many types. Digital technology has created tiny devices that cause little distortion.
One example of a device is the FM trainer. With this device, a person speaks into a microphone. The sound is then transmitted by radio waves directly to the earphone set worn on your ear. This can be particularly helpful if you have trouble hearing speech when there is background noise. FM trainers can also help children with hearing loss to understand their teachers.
The cochlear implant is surgically implanted. It directly stimulates part of the brain and uses a tiny computer microprocessor to sort out incoming sound.
Treat Other Medical Illnesses
When hearing loss is caused by other medical conditions, it may be possible to improve hearing by treating those conditions.
Discontinue or Change Medications
If your hearing loss may be caused or worsened by a medication, talk to your doctor about stopping that particular drug or changing to a drug that does not affect hearing.
Address Nutritional Deficiencies
It may be possible to slow age-related hearing loss in elderly persons through dietary modification. For example, if you are deficient in folic acid, this supplement may be helpful for you. Talk to your doctor.
Surgery may be done in some cases of conductive hearing loss to correct the middle ear problem, such as in otosclerosis, ossicular damage or fixation, and ear infections.
If you have hearing loss, some changes may help you maximize your ability to hear. Follow these guidelines when talking to other people:
To help prevent hearing loss:
American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Inc.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Society of Rural Physicians of Canada
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Last reviewed September 2012 by Kari Kassir, MD