Learn About Hearing Loss

What is the definition of Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is being partly or totally unable to hear sound in one or both ears.

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What are the alternative names for Hearing Loss?

Decreased hearing; Deafness; Loss of hearing; Conductive hearing loss; Sensorineural hearing loss; Presbycusis

What is some background information about Hearing Loss?

Symptoms of hearing loss may include:

  • Certain sounds seem overly loud in one ear
  • Difficulty following conversations when two or more people are talking
  • Difficulty hearing in noisy areas
  • Trouble telling high-pitched sounds (such as "s" or "th") from one another
  • Less trouble hearing men's voices than women's voices
  • Hearing voices as mumbled or slurred

Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling of being off-balance or dizzy (more common with Ménière disease and acoustic neuroma)
  • Feeling of pressure in the ear (in the fluid behind the eardrum)
  • Ringing or buzzing sound in the ears (tinnitus)
What are the causes of Hearing Loss?

Conductive hearing loss (CHL) occurs because of a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear. This may be because:

  • The 3 tiny bones of the ear (ossicles) are not conducting sound properly.
  • The eardrum is not vibrating in response to sound.

Causes of conductive hearing loss can often be treated. They include:

  • Buildup of wax in the ear canal
  • Damage to the very small bones (ossicles) that are right behind the eardrum
  • Fluid remaining in the ear after an ear infection
  • Foreign object that is stuck in the ear canal
  • Hole in the eardrum
  • Scar on the eardrum from repeated infections

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when the tiny hair cells (nerve endings) that detect sound in the ear are injured, diseased, do not work correctly, or have died. This type of hearing loss often cannot be reversed.

Sensorineural hearing loss is commonly caused by:

  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Childhood infections, such as meningitis, mumps, scarlet fever, and measles
  • Ménière disease
  • Regular exposure to loud noises (such as from work or recreation)
  • Use of certain medicines

Hearing loss may be present at birth (congenital) and can be due to:

  • Birth defects that cause changes in the ear structures
  • Genetic conditions (more than 400 are known)
  • Infections the mother passes to her baby in the womb, such as toxoplasmosis, rubella, or herpes

The ear can also be injured by:

  • Pressure differences between the inside and outside of the eardrum, often from scuba diving
  • Skull fractures (can damage the structures or nerves of the ear)
  • Trauma from explosions, fireworks, gunfire, rock concerts, and earphones
How do I perform a home exam for a Hearing Loss?

You can often flush wax buildup out of the ear (gently) with ear syringes (available in drug stores) and warm water. Wax softeners (like Cerumenex) may be needed if the wax is hard and stuck in the ear.

Take care when removing foreign objects from the ear. Unless it is easy to get to, have your health care provider remove the object. Don't use sharp instruments to remove foreign objects.

See your provider for any other hearing loss.

When should I contact a medical professional for Hearing Loss?

Call your provider if:

  • Hearing problems interfere with your lifestyle.
  • Hearing problems do not go away or become worse.
  • The hearing is worse in one ear than the other.
  • You have sudden, severe hearing loss or ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
  • You have other symptoms, such as ear pain, along with hearing problems.
  • You have new headaches, weakness, or numbness anywhere on your body.
What should I expect during a doctor appointment?

The provider will take your medical history and do a physical exam.

Tests that may be done include:

  • Audiometric testing (hearing tests used to check the type and amount of hearing loss)
  • CT or MRI scan of the head (if a tumor or fracture is suspected)
  • Tympanometry

The following surgeries may help some types of hearing loss:

  • Eardrum repair
  • Placing tubes in the eardrums to remove fluid
  • Repair of the small bones in the middle ear (ossiculoplasty)

The following may help with long-term hearing loss:

  • Assistive listening devices
  • Safety and alert systems for your home
  • Hearing aids
  • Cochlear implant
  • Learning techniques to help you communicate
  • Sign language (for those with severe hearing loss)

Cochlear implants are only used in people who have lost too much hearing to benefit from a hearing aid.

Ear anatomy
Who are the top Hearing Loss Local Doctors?
Elite
Highly rated in
23
conditions
Otolaryngology
General Surgery

Medical University of South Carolina Health System

East Cooper Medical Pavilion

1600 Midtown Ave 
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464

Ted Meyer is an Otolaryngologist and a General Surgeon in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Dr. Meyer has been practicing medicine for over 27 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Hearing Loss. He is also highly rated in 23 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Hearing Loss, Otitis, Malignant Otitis Externa, and Meniere Disease. He is licensed to treat patients in South Carolina. Dr. Meyer is currently accepting new patients.

Elite
Highly rated in
27
conditions
Otolaryngology

UMass Memorial Health Care

Umass Memorial Medical Center - University Campus

55 N Lake Ave 
Worcester, MA 1655

Aaron Remenschneider is an Otolaryngologist in Worcester, Massachusetts. Dr. Remenschneider has been practicing medicine for over 13 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Hearing Loss. He is also highly rated in 27 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, Ruptured Eardrum, and Otitis. He is licensed to treat patients in Massachusetts. Dr. Remenschneider is currently accepting new patients.

 
 
 
 
Learn about our expert tiers
Learn more
Elite
Highly rated in
14
conditions
Otolaryngology

Mass General Brigham

Massachusetts Eye And Ear Associates LLC

243 Charles St 
Boston, MA 2114

Elliott Kozin is an Otolaryngologist in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Kozin has been practicing medicine for over 11 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Hearing Loss. He is also highly rated in 14 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, Cholesteatoma, and Labyrinthitis. He is licensed to treat patients in Massachusetts. Dr. Kozin is currently accepting new patients.

What are the latest Hearing Loss Clinical Trials?
Mirtazapine vs Sumatriptan in the Treatment of Postdural Puncture Headache Following Obstetric Surgery Under Spinal Anesthesia: A Randomized Controlled Trial
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Functional Near Infra-Red Spectroscopic Study of Central Auditory System Cortical Functional Reorganization in Unilateral Deaf Children
What are the Latest Advances for Hearing Loss?
A Paradigm Shift in the Management of Thyroid Eye Disease How Teprotumumab Has Changed the Therapeutic Interface.
Hearing and Speech Perception for People With Hearing Loss Using Personal Sound Amplification Products.
Tired of the same old research?
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Intratympanic gentamicin compared with placebo for Ménière's disease.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date : April 13, 2020
Published By : Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Arts HA, Adams ME. Sensorineural hearing loss in adults. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 152.

Eggermont JJ. Types of hearing loss. In: Eggermont JJ, ed. Hearing Loss. Cambridge, MA: Elsevier Academic Press; 2017:chap 5.

Kerber KA, Baloh RW. Neuro-otology: diagnosis and management of neuro-otological disorders. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 46.

Le Prell CG. Noise-induced hearing loss. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 154.

Shearer AE, Shibata SB, Smith RJH. Genetic sensorineural hearing loss. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 150.

Weinstein B. Disorders of hearing. In: Fillit HM, Rockwood K, Young J, eds. Brocklehurst's Textbook of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, 2017:chap 96.