Deafness means a lack or loss of the sense of hearing, which may be partial or complete. Partial loss of hearing is often called hearing loss rather than deafness. Deafness can occur in one or both ears.
There are three primary types of hearing loss:
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The conditions that can cause or be associated with hearing loss include the following:
Deafness may occur at any age. Risk factors that increase your chances of deafness include:
Hearing loss usually comes on gradually, but may come on suddenly. Symptoms may include:
Symptoms of deafness in infants may be noted at these stages:
All children, including newborns, should be screened for hearing loss.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. As part of the diagnosis, your doctor may try to determine the following:
Depending on the type of hearing loss you have, the doctor may order tests to confirm your diagnosis. Tests may include:
Treatment for deafness depends on the type of hearing loss. Options may include:
To help prevent deafness, avoid loud noise. In cases when loud noise cannot be avoided, you can reduce exposure to loud noises by wearing earplugs, earmuffs, or ear protectors. Also, taking steps to reduce injuries or disease may prevent certain types of deafness.
There is currently no effective way to prevent congenital or genetic deafness. Hearing screening for newborns can help ensure that hearing loss in young babies is detected and treated at the earliest possible stage.
Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
American Academy of Audiology
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Canadian Academy of Audiology
Canadian Association of the Deaf
Deafness and hearing loss. World Health Organization website. Available at: http://www.who.int/topics/deafness/en/. Accessed March 1, 2013.
Deafness and hearing loss research. The Scripps Research Institute website. Available at: http://www.scripps.edu/discover/deafness.html. Accessed March 1, 2013.
Hearing, ear infections, and deafness. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/Pages/Default.aspx. Accessed March 1, 2013.
Hearing loss. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Hearing-Loss/. Accessed March 1, 2013.
Plaza G, Herráiz C. Intratympanic steroids for treatment of sudden hearing loss after failure of intravenous therapy. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg . 2007 Jul;137(1):74-8.
What is hearing loss. NIH SeniorHealth website. Available at: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/hearingloss/hearinglossdefined/01.html. Accessed March 1, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Kari Kassir, 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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