Hearing loss is a decreased ability to hear.
The Anatomy of the Ear
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There are two main categories of hearing loss:
Causes of conductive hearing loss may include:
Causes of sensorineural hearing loss is unknown in most people. Some causes may include:
Factors that may increase your risk of hearing loss include:
Hearing loss may cause a decreased ability to hear:
Hearing loss may also cause:
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. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
When hearing loss is caused by other medical conditions, it may be possible to improve hearing by treating those conditions. Other treatment includes:
Non-surgical treatment options are not invasive and may help improve your hearing. Options include:
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.
A cochlear implant directly stimulates part of the brain and uses a tiny computer microprocessor to sort out incoming sound.
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, take these steps:
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
American Tinnitus Association
The Canadian Hearing Society
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology
Hansen MC. Otosclerosis and sensorineural hearing loss. A clinical study. Archives of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. 1983;109(9).
Hearing loss prevention. Better Hearing Institute website. Available at: http://www.betterhearing.org/hearing_loss_prevention/index.cfm . Accessed September 20, 2013.
Lee SH, Chang Y, Lee JE, Cho JH. The values of diffusion tensor imaging and functional MRI in evaluating profound sensorineural hearing loss. Cochlear Implants International. 2004;149-152.
Living with hearing loss. Hearing Loss Association of America website. Available at: http://www.hearingloss.org/content/living-hearing-loss . Accessed September 20, 2013.
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Durga J, Verhoef P, Anteunis L, Schouten E, Kok F. Effects of folic acid supplementation on hearing in older adults: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Int Med. 2007;146(1):1-9.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013