Hearing loss is a decreased ability to hear. There are two types: of hearing loss, conductive and sensorineural. There may also be a mixture of the two.
A person may also have a mix of both types.
Anatomy of the Ear
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Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems that make it hard for sound to travel from the outer to the middle or inner ear, such as:
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the parts of the inner ear that are responsible for hearing. In some people, the cause is not known. In others, it may be due to:
Hearing loss is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk of hearing loss are:
Hearing loss may cause a decreased ability to hear:
Hearing loss may also cause:
Call the doctor for any problems hearing. You should also call if there is:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
An ear exam will be done. It may include:
Images may be taken of the ears and surrounding structures. This can be done with:
The electrical response of your brain to sound may be tested. This can be done with brain stem auditory evoked response testing.
Treating underlying health problems may improve some forms of hearing loss. Other treatment options are:
Methods that may improve hearing are:
Medicines that cause hearing loss may be stopped or changed.
Oral or injected corticosteroids may be used to help treat certain types of hearing loss. They are used to:
People who are not helped by other methods may need surgery. Some examples are:
The risk of hearing loss may be lowered by:
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
American Tinnitus Association
Canadian Hearing Society
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Chandrasekhar SS, Tsai Do BS, et al. American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF). Clinical Practice Guideline: Sudden Hearing Loss (Update). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 Aug;161(1_suppl):S1-S45.
Cochlear implants. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) website. Available at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/cochlear-implants. Accessed March 15, 2021.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sudden-sensorineural-hearing-loss. Accessed March 15, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated: 03/15/2021