Hearing loss symptoms

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This content was last reviewed on: September 22nd, 20162016-09-22 20:04:00

Hearing loss affects your quality of life, health, relationships and career. Understand the symptoms of hearing loss so you know when to seek help.


Hearing loss can manifest in many different ways. Depending on the degree or severity of the hearing loss, symptoms can range from occasional difficulty understanding words to inability to communicate with others and social isolation.

While there are a few different types of hearing loss and many different causes, the symptoms are generally similar regardless of type or cause.

Common symptoms of hearing loss:

  • Listening to television or radio at a high volume
  • Trouble understanding speech, especially in noisy environments
  • The perception that others are mumbling
  • Difficulty hearing people on the phone
  • Often asking people to repeat themselves
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Exhaustion after attending social events
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears

The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss, and this type often results in a decreased ability to hear high-pitched sounds.

People with high-frequency hearing loss often miss these sounds:

  • Female and young children’s voices
  • Certain consonant sounds like s, sh, f, v, th, f, p, making it difficult to understand some words
  • The car’s turn signal
  • Beeping sounds on timers and microwave ovens
  • Songbirds

Temporary vs. permanent hearing loss

Temporary hearing loss is often caused by exposure to loud noises such as attending a concert, gunshots or fireworks, or occupational exposure. Temporary hearing loss is characterized by a Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) and is often accompanied by tinnitus. It can last for only a few hours or several days before hearing returns to normal. If you are exposed to loud noises frequently, the ears have a harder time recovering from TTS after each occurrence, and your hearing loss can become permanent.

Unlike temporary hearing loss, permanent hearing loss cannot be reversed and usually involves damage to the auditory nerves or the tiny hair cells of the inner ear. For most permanent hearing losses, the best solution is properly fitted hearing aids.

Symptoms of hearing loss in children

Hearing loss in children is usually detected with the help of a newborn infant hearing screening soon after birth. Astute parents will also be able to detect hearing loss in their child.

Symptoms of hearing loss in children:

  • A delay in speech and language development
  • Child does not startle when loud sound is present
  • Child cannot localize sound (tell where sound is coming from)
  • Poor performance in school
  • Behavioral problems in school
  • A learning disability diagnosis

Next steps

Now that you know the symptoms of hearing loss in adults and children, be mindful of signs of trouble. In adults, hearing loss can often begin long before symptoms are noticed, and the loss can progress slowly over time. If you suspect hearing loss in yourself, your child or someone close to you, call a hearing care professional right away. Get a baseline hearing test and follow up annually to look for changes. The sooner you seek help, the better your outcome will be.

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