Hearing loss is being partly or totally unable to hear sound in one or both ears.
Decreased hearing; Deafness; Loss of hearing; Conductive hearing loss; Sensorineural hearing loss; Presbycusis
Symptoms of hearing loss may include:
Other symptoms include:
Conductive hearing loss (CHL) occurs because of a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear. This may be because:
Causes of conductive hearing loss can often be treated. They include:
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when the tiny hair cells (nerve endings) that detect sound in the ear are injured, diseased, do not work correctly, or have died. This type of hearing loss often cannot be reversed.
Sensorineural hearing loss is commonly caused by:
Hearing loss may be present at birth (congenital) and can be due to:
The ear can also be injured by:
You can often flush wax buildup out of the ear (gently) with ear syringes (available in drug stores) and warm water. Wax softeners (like Cerumenex) may be needed if the wax is hard and stuck in the ear.
Take care when removing foreign objects from the ear. Unless it is easy to get to, have your health care provider remove the object. Don't use sharp instruments to remove foreign objects.
See your provider for any other hearing loss.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
The provider will take your medical history and do a physical exam.
Tests that may be done include:
The following surgeries may help some types of hearing loss:
The following may help with long-term hearing loss:
Cochlear implants are only used in people who have lost too much hearing to benefit from a hearing aid.
Arts HA. Sensorineural hearing loss in adults. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 150.
Baloh RW, Jen JC. Hearing and equilibrium. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 428.
Bauer CA, Jenkins HA. Otologic symptoms and syndromes. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 156.
Eggermont JJ. Types of hearing loss. In: Eggermont JJ, ed. Hearing Loss. Cambridge, MA: Elsevier Academic Press; 2017:chap 5.
Lonsbury-Martin BL, Martin GK. Noise-induced hearing loss. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 152.
National Foundation for the Deaf website. Helpful resources. www.nfd.org.nz/hearing-matters. Accessed October 23, 2018.
Shibata SB, Shearer AE, Smith RJH. Genetic sensorineural hearing loss. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 148.
Review Date: 5/17/2018
Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 10/23/2018.
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