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Hearing Loss Symptoms

Contributed by , associate editor for Healthy Hearing

Hearing loss can be a difficult issue to tackle, especially because it manifests in many different ways. Depending on the degree or severity of the hearing loss, symptoms can range from difficulty understanding a word to problems communicating with others.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly one in five Americans have some degree of hearing loss in at least one ear. And once you reach the age of 65, that statistic narrows to one out of three.

Hearing loss can be debilitating to a person’s quality of life, but by understanding the symptoms of different types of hearing loss, it is easier to diagnose and treat.

Symptoms of temporary hearing loss

Temporary hearing loss is often caused by exposure to loud noises, such as attending a concert or occupational exposure. Temporary hearing loss generally lasts for only a few hours before returning to normal. Symptoms of hearing loss include: difficulty understanding everyday conversations, a reduced ability to hear other noises around you and usually ringing in the ears.

Hearing loss can affect different parts of the ear

If an individual is exposed to loud noises frequently, a temporary hearing loss can become permanent.

Symptoms of conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by a condition in the outer or middle inner ear. Conductive hearing loss often occurs when sounds cannot be transmitted to the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is commonly temporary and can be caused by wax build-up, fluid in the middle ear or a perforated eardrum. While conductive hearing loss is usually medically treatable, it does require help from a hearing health professional.

Symptoms of conductive hearing loss may include: turning up the volume on the television or radio, asking people to repeat what they say, hearing in one ear better than the other and difficulty hearing on the telephone.

Symptoms of permanent hearing loss

Unlike temporary hearing loss, permanent hearing loss cannot be reversed and usually involves damages to the auditory nerves. Symptoms of permanent hearing loss vary based on degree, but can include: mumbled or garbled speech, difficulty understanding day-to-day conversation and asking individuals to repeat themselves frequently.

There are many causes of permanent hearing loss, but each necessitates evaluation from a hearing healthcare professional.

Symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss

This checklist summarizes the common signs of hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss facing individuals today. This type of hearing loss is often age-related and occurs when the inner ear and/or hearing nerve are damaged and fail to transmit signals to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss also can be caused by a virus, prolonged exposure to loud noises or reduced blood circulation.

Because this hearing loss typically comes on gradually, it can be important to try and identify the symptoms of it as soon as possible. Symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss include: the ability to hear individuals speaking, but not clearly, even when the volume is more than adequate, distortion of music or the radio, turning up the volume on the television or radio, asking people to repeat themselves, perception of people mumbling or not speaking clearly, lack of clarity when listening to speech and difficulty hearing in noise.

Because sensorineural hearing loss is often permanent, individuals suffering from it should schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional near them. This type of hearing loss can typically be treated with the help of hearing aids and other technology.

Symptoms of mixed hearing loss

Sometimes hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural. In the event of mixed hearing loss, many of the common symptoms of conductive and sensorineural are displayed as well. Symptoms of mixed hearing loss include: difficulty clearly understanding everyday conversation, trouble hearing the television or radio at a comfortable volume and asking individuals to repeat themselves frequently.

Because mixed hearing loss affects individuals differently, a combination of medication, hearing aids and sometimes surgery is usually used in treatment.

Hearing loss can be a difficult and sometimes embarrassing issue for individuals to recognize. Because many people are concerned with the comfort, look and cost of hearing aids, many will put off addressing their hearing loss issues until more severe symptoms have ensued.

If an individual suspects a hearing loss, it is important to address concerns with a hearing healthcare provider.

Symptoms of hearing loss in children

In addition to hearing loss in adults, it is an issue facing infants, children and teenagers. Hearing loss in children can be difficult to diagnose because of their inability to communicate problems. A hearing loss in a child might be suspected if any of the following difficulties are present: a speech delay, frequent or recurring ear infections, a family history of hearing loss (some forms of hearing loss can be inherited), certain diseases or syndromes associated with hearing loss (such as Alport and Down syndrome, Usher syndrome or Stickler syndrome), infectious diseases (including measles or meningitis), poor performance in school or a learning disability diagnosis.

Parents concerned with a hearing loss in their child should discuss concerns with a pediatrician or family doctor and follow-up with a hearing health professional.


  1. Quick Statistics, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/Pages/quick.aspx
  2. What is Hearing Loss, Hearing Like Me, http://www.hearinglikeme.com/facts/what-hearing-loss/what-hearing-loss
  3. Mixed Hearing Loss, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Mixed-Hearing-Loss/

This content was last reviewed on: October 31st, 2013

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