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Alternative Names Return to topDecreased hearing; Deafness; Loss of hearing; Conductive hearing loss; Sensorineural hearing loss
Definition Return to top
Hearing loss is the total or partial inability to hear sound in one or both ears.
See also: Hearing loss of aging
Considerations Return to top
Minor decreases in hearing are common after age 20.
Hearing problems usually come on gradually, and rarely end in complete deafness.
There are many causes of hearing loss. Hearing loss can be divided into two main categories:
CHL is often reversible. SNHL is not. People who have both forms of hearing loss are said to have mixed hearing loss.
HEARING LOSS IN CHILDREN
Screening for hearing loss is now recommended for all newborns. In children, hearing problems may cause speech to develop slowly.
Ear infections are the most common cause of temporary hearing loss in children. Fluid may stay in the ear following an ear infection. The fluid can go unnoticed, or it can cause significant hearing problems in children. Any fluid that remains longer than 8 - 12 weeks is cause for concern.
Preventing hearing loss is more effective than treating it after the damage is done.
Causes Return to top
Temporary hearing loss can be caused by:
Home Care Return to top
Wax build-up can frequently be flushed 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 impacted.
Care should be taken when removing foreign bodies. Unless it is easy to get to, have your health care provider remove the object. Don't use sharp instruments to remove foreign bodies.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
The health care provider will take your medical history and do a physical examination.
Medical history questions documenting hearing loss in detail may include:
The physical examination will include a detailed examination of the ears.
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include:
A hearing aid or cochlear implant may be provided to improve hearing.
References Return to top
Baloh RW. Hearing and Equilibrium. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA : Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 454.
Wrightson AS. Universal newborn hearing screening. Am Fam Physician. 2007; 75(9):1349.Update Date: 4/13/2009 Updated by: Alan Lipkin, MD, Otolaryngologist, Private Practice, Denver, Colorado. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.