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Don't suffer in silence: What you need to know about hearing loss

Posted May 02, 2022 by Deanna Nickerson, Au.D. & Amy Welman, Au.D.

medical professional looking into a patients ear

Do you often find yourself replying, “Say that again,” during a conversation? Do you have difficulty understanding words while in a crowded place? Does it seem as if your loved one is mumbling or talking quieter than usual? These could be signs of hearing loss.

As we age, hearing loss is a common problem. In fact, nearly 25 percent of people ages 65 to 74 and half of those who are 75 and older have disabling hearing loss, according to the National Institutes of Health.

You can have hearing loss in one or both ears, and some types are temporary, while others are permanent. There are three types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive: Conductive hearing loss is caused by something that blocks sound from passing through the outer or middle ear, such as earwax, fluid, unusual growths or tumors, or an infection.
  • Sensorineural: Sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve, and it is often permanent. Aging, chronic noise exposure, inherited abnormalities, injury or an infection could cause the condition.
  • Mixed: Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises, such as from your occupation, are main contributors to hearing loss. However, inherited abnormalities and conditions, ruptured eardrums caused by unexpected, loud blasts or sudden changes in pressure, gradual buildup of earwax, some medications and infections are all risk factors for hearing loss.

If you’re suffering from a hearing problem, you may feel disconnected to the world around you. The good news is you don’t have to suffer in silence. While the damage may be permanent, there are numerous treatments available to improve your hearing — and quality of life.

Signs of hearing loss

Hearing problems typically develop slowly over time and changes may not be immediately noticeable. If you find your hearing loss is interfering with your daily life and social activities, it’s time to talk to your doctor.

Common signs of hearing loss include:

  • Muffling of speech and other sounds
  • Difficulty understanding conversations, especially in loud, crowded spaces
  • Trouble hearing consonants, such as the difference between “f” and “s”
  • Trouble hearing high-pitched sounds, such as birds chirping
  • Frequently asking others to speak up or repeat themselves
  • Turning up the volume on the TV or radio
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Avoidance of some social settings or withdrawing from conversations

Seek medical attention right away if you’re experiencing balance problems, a severe earache or sudden hearing loss. It could be a sign of a serious underlying condition.

Diagnosis and treatment for hearing loss

While hearing loss is typically not curable, it is almost always treatable.

To diagnose hearing loss, an audiologist will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical exam to look inside your ear for possible causes, such as earwax or infection. In addition, your provider will perform hearing assessments, such as an audiogram, to test for which types of sounds and the softest sounds you can hear.

Treatment depends on the cause and severity of your hearing loss and could include:

Earwax removal

Earwax blockage can be removed to restore your hearing. Your doctor can     remove earwax either through suction or by using a special tool.


Surgeons can repair ear abnormalities to the eardrum or bone structure inside your middle ear or remove tumors or unusual growths blocking your ear canal. In addition, ear tubes can be surgically implanted to help drain  fluid from your ear if you’re experiencing chronic infections.

Hearing aids

For permanent hearing loss, hearing aids are often the first step in improving hearing. A hearing aid is an electrical device that is worn on or inside the ear to amplify sound and direct it into your ear canal. Hearing aids come in a range of styles, sizes and technology levels, and they can be matched to your specific hearing problem.

Bone-anchored hearing implants

Bone-anchored hearing systems, such as the Baha® implant, is a surgical option which can provide a better outcome for single-sided or middle ear hearing loss. Different from hearing aids, these specialty devices treat hearing loss through sound vibrations transmitted by bone conduction to the inner ear. 

With treatment, patients are able to experience an improvement in their quality of life by having better access to speech and sound in their environment. Talk to your doctor about which treatment options are right for you so you can get back to enjoying life and be in tune with the world — and loves ones — around you.

Deanna M Nickerson, AUD

Deanna M Nickerson, AUD

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Amy Welman, AUD

Amy Welman, AUD


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