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Hearing loss

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Hearing loss makes it difficult to hear speech and other sounds. Some people develop hearing loss as they get old, but it can affect anyone. Some babies are born with hearing loss (congenital hearing loss). Some hearing disorders can be treated and prevented.

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss can make it difficult to understand, follow, or participate in conversations. You may have difficulty following what people say on television or on the phone, and you may miss the pleasant sounds of nature. Significant hearing loss can affect your ability to work and enjoy life.

How common is hearing loss?

More than 1 in 10 Americans have some degree of hearing loss. It is the most common sensory processing disorder. These disorders affect how your brain processes information from senses such as hearing, vision, taste, and touch.

Who can have hearing loss?

Hearing loss affects all ages, genders, races and ethnicities. Hearing loss in older adults is common, affecting 1 in 3 people over 65 and half of people over 75. Age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis.

Hearing loss also affects babies and children. An estimated 2 in 1000 babies are born with some type of hearing loss. Hearing loss in children is one of the most common birth defects. A condition that is present at birth is called a congenital condition.

What are the types of hearing loss?

You may have hearing loss in one ear (unilateral) or both (bilateral). The type depends on where the damage occurs within the hearing system.

Types of hearing loss include:

What is the difference between hearing loss and deafness?

A person with hearing loss can hear sounds well enough to participate in conversations. They can improve their hearing using hearing aids or other treatments.

Someone who is deaf may hear little or nothing at all. Hearing aids and aids do not help. A person who is deaf may use sign language to communicate.


What causes hearing loss?

Loud sounds often cause hearing loss. Sometimes this exposure is sudden and short-term. Attending a loud concert or being close to a gunshot can damage hearing.

Long-term noise exposure affects many occupations. Farmers, construction workers, musicians and members of the military are most at risk. Occupational hearing loss is one of the leading work-related diseases in the United States

Other risk factors that increase your likelihood of hearing loss include:

What are the symptoms of hearing loss?

Hearing loss can happen gradually. You may not even realize you are losing your hearing.

Most people do not have any pain related to hearing loss. Instead, you may notice:

Symptoms of hearing loss in children include:


Which doctor diagnoses and treats hearing loss?

If you suspect hearing loss, you may see:

Audiologists, or hearing aid specialists, often work with ear, nose and throat specialists. As a team, they can solve all your hearing problems to help improve your hearing.

How is hearing loss diagnosed?

Your provider will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical examination. They check for signs of infection or other problems that may cause hearing loss.

To measure hearing loss, a doctor performs an audiogram. This hearing test measures what types of sounds you can hear. Testing precautions:

If you have an injury or possible tumor, you may have a CT scan or MRI.


What are the complications of hearing loss?

Having hearing loss can make you feel disconnected from the world around you. You may be irritable, irritable or irritable. People with severe hearing loss may become anxious or depressed. Children with hearing loss may struggle in school and get poor grades. Research also shows a link between hearing loss and dementia in older adults.

How is hearing loss managed or treated?

Hearing loss treatments generally depend on the type and degree of hearing loss. Treatments include:

Does insurance cover hearing aid costs?

Health insurance may provide coverage for hearing aids — check your plan for specific coverage.


How can I prevent hearing loss?

Noise exposure is one of the most common and preventable causes of hearing loss. To help prevent noise-induced hearing loss:


What is the prognosis (outlook) for people with hearing loss?

Certain types and causes of hearing loss can be treated. With treatment, you can regain most or all of your hearing. Sensorineural and age-related hearing loss is usually permanent. Most people with this type of hearing loss benefit from hearing aids.


When should I call the doctor?

You should call your doctor if you have hearing loss or experience:

A note from your doctor

Going through life missing conversations or hearing muffled voices can be frustrating and depressing. Hearing loss affects many people. You shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help. Today’s hearing aids are smaller and very discreet. Your doctor can determine the best way to improve your hearing so you can get back in tune with the sounds around you.