Information for Patients
Hearing Disorders and Deafness
Also called: Hearing loss, Presbycusis
It's frustrating to be unable to hear well enough to enjoy talking with friends or family. Hearing disorders make it hard, but not impossible, to hear. They can often be helped. Deafness can keep you from hearing sound at all.
What causes hearing loss? Some possibilities are
- Diseases such as ear infections and meningitis
- Certain medicines
- Long-term exposure to loud noise
There are two main types of hearing loss. One happens when your inner ear or auditory nerve is damaged. This type is usually permanent. The other kind happens when sound waves cannot reach your inner ear. Earwax build-up, fluid, or a punctured eardrum can cause it. Treatment or surgery can often reverse this kind of hearing loss.
Untreated, hearing problems can get worse. If you have trouble hearing, you can get help. Possible treatments include hearing aids, cochlear implants, special training, certain medicines, and surgery.
NIH: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
- Acoustic trauma (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Age-related hearing loss (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Audiometry (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Ear examination (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Hearing loss (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Occupational hearing loss (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Otosclerosis (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Sensorineural deafness (Medical Encyclopedia)
Age-related hearing loss Age-related hearing loss (also known as presbycusis) is a decrease in hearing ability that happens with age. In most cases, the hearing loss affects both ears. It can begin as early as a person's thirties or forties and worsens gradually over time.Age-related hearing loss first affects the ability to hear high-frequency sounds, such as speech. Affected people find it increasingly difficult to understand what others are saying, particularly when there is background noise (such as at a party). However, because the hearing loss is gradual, many people do not realize they cannot hear as well as they used to. They may turn up the television volume or start speaking louder without being aware of it.As the hearing loss worsens, it affects more frequencies of sound, making it difficult to hear more than just speech. Determining where a sound is coming from (localization) and identifying its source become more challenging. Some affected individuals also experience a ringing sensation in the ears (tinnitus) or dizziness and problems with balance (presbystasis).Age-related hearing loss often impacts a person's quality of life. Because affected individuals have trouble understanding speech, the condition affects their ability to communicate. It can contribute to social isolation, depression, and loss of self-esteem. Age-related hearing loss also causes safety issues if individuals become unable to hear smoke alarms, car horns, and other sounds that alert people to dangerous situations.