Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. It can come on gradually as you get older, or it can occur quite suddenly. 

Signs and symptoms

It’s not always as easy as you might think to tell if you’re gradually losing your hearing. There are some common signs that you can look out for, including: 

  • Difficulty hearing people clearly, especially in places with a lot of background noise.
  • Having to ask people to repeat themselves
  • Having to listen to music or television loudly
  • Having to concentrate hard to hear what other people are saying, which can be tiring or stressful.

The signs can be different if you’re only losing your hearing in one ear or in a young child with hearing loss. 

When to get help

If you think you’re losing your hearing, you can call your doctor or an audiologist for help. You should seek treatment if:

  • If you or your child loses their hearing suddenly in one or both ears. 
  • If you think your hearing or the hearing of your child is gradually getting worse.

Your audiologist will ask you about your symptoms. They will then look inside your ears with a small handheld torch with a magnifying lens to look for any obstructions or visual problems. They will also do simple hearing checks with you. 

Causes of hearing loss

Hearing loss can be caused by a lot of different things. Common causes include:

  • Hearing loss in one ear could be caused by earwax, an ear infection, a burst eardrum or Meniere’s disease. 
  • Hearing loss in both ears that comes on suddenly can be caused by a very loud noise or by taking certain medicines that have an impact on your hearing. 
  • Gradual hearing loss in one ear can be caused by a blockage in the ear, such as fluid, a bony growth or a build-up of skin cells. 
  • Gradual hearing loss in both ears is usually caused by aging or repeated exposure to loud noises over a lot of years. 

You might not always be aware of an obvious reason for your hearing loss, but even if you are, you should see your doctor or an audiologist. 

How to treating hearing loss

Hearing loss can occasionally get better by itself, or it may need to be treated with medication or a simple procedure. For example, hearing loss caused by an earwax buildup is easy to correct as the earwax can just be sucked out or softened with eardrops. 

Other types, including gradual hearing loss, which is common as you get older, may be permanent. In these cases, treatment is more focused on making the most of remaining hearing. This could involve:

  • Hearing aids: There are several different types available, which your audiologist can help you choose which is best for you. 
  • Implants: These are devices that are attached to your skull or placed inside your ear if hearing aids don’t suit you. 
  • Different ways of communicating: This might be sign language or lip-reading. 

Preventing hearing loss

You might always be able to totally avoid gradual hearing loss, but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of damaging your hearing so gradual hearing loss doesn’t have as much of an impact. These things include:

  • Keeping the volume of your television, radio or music down lower
  • Using noise-cancelling headphones instead of turning up the volume louder to drown out outside noise
  • Wearing ear protection, like ear defenders, if you’re working in a noisy environment. Those who work in garages, on building sites or in music venues should wear ear defenders. For musicians, there are special vented earplugs that allow in some noise while still protecting your ears. 
  • Wearing ear protection at loud events, like concerts
  • Never inserting items into your ears, like fingers, cotton buds, cotton wool or tissues. 

Gradual hearing loss can happen to anyone and is usually not caused by anything more sinister than just getting older. Exposure to loud noises over the years, such as going to concerts or working in a loud environment, can gradually cause your hearing to become damaged. You may lose the ability to hear sounds at certain pitches or may find your hearing is less sensitive in general. If you notice this, you should seek medical treatment in order to protect the rest of your hearing as best as you can. To learn more about gradual hearing loss and what can be done about it, call the Salyer Hearing Center today at Sylva: 828-586-7474, Franklin: 828-524-5599, Murphy: 828-835-1014.