Hearing loss in adults

Most hearing loss in adults happens because of ageing, but there are other possible reasons. Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent depending on the cause.

Causes of hearing loss

The most common cause of gradual hearing loss is ageing. It usually happens in both ears and affects your ability to hear high-pitched sounds first.

Other causes of hearing loss include:

  • a build up of wax in your ear canal
  • fluid behind your eardrum (otitis media)
  • exposure to loud sounds over a long time
  • disorders of the outer, middle or inner ear and auditory (hearing) nerve.

Sometimes we do not know why hearing loss happens.

Symptoms of hearing loss

If you are slowly losing your hearing, it can be hard to tell. Some signs of hearing loss include:

  • mishearing people
  • thinking people sound like they are mumbling
  • having to ask people to repeat what they are saying
  • needing the television or radio volume louder than other people need
  • having trouble following conversations if there is a lot of background noise.

Diagnosing hearing loss in adults

If your hearing loss is not sudden, see an audiologist or hearing therapist to have your hearing assessed. Most hearing tests are free.

Find an audiologist or hearing therapist - Healthpoint (external link)

Treating hearing loss

Your treatment will depend on the cause and how much hearing you have lost.

Temporary hearing loss

  • Earwax buildup can be treated with ear drops, suctioning or other methods.
  • If you have an ear infection, your healthcare provider can prescribe medication to clear it up.

Long term hearing loss

If your hearing loss is permanent, you may need hearing aids or a cochlear implant.

Hearing aids

Hearing aids make sounds louder to help you hear them. There are several different types of hearing aids. Which one works best for you will depend on what you need the hearing aid for and how you want it to look. It may also depend on what type of hearing loss you have and the shape of your ear.

Cochlear implants

If you have severe hearing loss not helped by hearing aids, you may be suitable for a cochlear implant device.

Self care for hearing loss

Protect your hearing by avoiding exposure to loud sounds, especially over a long time. If a sound is so loud that you have to shout to be heard by someone standing one metre away, it is too loud and may damage your hearing.

  • Do not listen to music or videos at high volume for long periods.
  • Wear hearing protection when in a loud environment or using loud machinery.
  • Have regular hearing checks, especially if work in a noisy environment or you have a loud hobby.
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