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:
Hearing loss is more common in older adults.
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 emergency medical services right away.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
You may have ear tests done. These may include:
Images may be taken of your ears. 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.
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—Head and Neck Surgery
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 19, 2015. Accessed August 5, 2015.
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 August 5, 2015.
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 August 5, 2015.
2/1/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed : 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 August 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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