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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Medical Devices

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Hearing Loss


What are the signs and symptoms of hearing loss?

You may have a hearing loss if:

  • people say you are shouting when you talk to them
  • you need the TV or radio turned up louder than other people
  • you often ask people to repeat themselves because you can’t hear or understand them, especially in groups or when there is background noise
  • you can hear better out of one ear than the other
  • you have to strain to hear
  • you can’t hear a dripping faucet or a high pitched note of a violin
  • you think people 'mumble' when they speak

If you have any of these signs and symptoms, you should see your doctor or hearing healthcare professional to be tested for hearing loss.

What are the different types of hearing loss?

  • Sensorineural - a hearing loss that usually develops due to damage to the small sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells. This damage can occur as a result of disease, illness, age, injury from exposure to noise or certain medicines, or as the result of a genetic disorder.
  • Conductive – a hearing loss that occurs when sound waves cannot transmit through the outer or middle ear or both. This can, for example, be caused by earwax, fluid in the middle ear space, or a punctured eardrum. Medical or surgical treatment can often restore hearing in people with a conductive hearing loss.
  • Mixed – a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.

Only a relatively small portion of adult hearing problems, such as ear infection and middle ear diseases, are medically or surgically treatable. If the condition cannot be treated medically or surgically, hearing aids may be beneficial.