Hearing Loss

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Don't Ignore Hearing Problems

Some people have a hearing problem without realizing it. Others might think they have a problem, but are too embarrassed to tell their doctor, friends, or family. You can help identify a possible hearing problem by asking yourself some key questions and, if necessary, having your hearing checked by a doctor.

If a hearing loss is ignored or untreated, it can get worse. But a hearing loss that is identified early can be helped through treatment, such as hearing aids, certain medications, and surgery.

Do You Have A Hearing Problem?

Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer "yes" to three or more of these questions, you could have a hearing problem and may need to have your hearing checked by a doctor.

  • Do I have a problem hearing on the telephone?
  • Do I have trouble hearing when there is noise in the background?
  • Is it hard for me to follow a conversation when two or more people talk at once?
  • Do I have to strain to understand a conversation?
  • Do many people I talk to seem to mumble or not speak clearly?
  • Do I misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?
  • Do I often ask people to repeat themselves?
  • Do I have trouble understanding women and children when they talk?
  • Do people complain that I turn the TV volume up too high?
  • Do I hear a ringing, roaring, clicking, buzzing, or hissing sound a lot?
  • Do some sounds seem too loud?

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or sudden deafness, is a rapid loss of hearing. It can happen to a person all at once or over a period of up to 3 days. It should be considered a medical emergency. If you or someone you know experiences sudden sensorineural hearing loss, you should visit a doctor immediately.

Who Should I See?

The most important thing you can do if you think you have a hearing problem is to seek professional advice. There are several ways to do this. You may start with your primary care physician, an otolaryngologist, an audiologist, or a hearing aid specialist. Each has a different type of training and expertise. Each can be an important part of your hearing health care.

An otolaryngologist -- a surgeon who specializes in ear, nose, and throat diseases -- will try to find out why you have a hearing loss and offer treatment options. He or she will ask you for your medical history, ask if other family members have hearing problems, perform a thorough exam, and prescribe any needed tests.

An audiologist is a health professional who can identify and measure hearing loss. The audiologist will use a device called an audiometer to test your ability to hear sounds of different loudness and pitch (where the sound falls on the scale, from high to low).

The tests that an audiologist performs are painless. Audiologists do not prescribe medications or perform surgery. If you need a hearing aid, some audiologists are licensed to help you choose the right one.

A hearing aid specialist (or hearing aid dispenser) is a licensed professional that can check your hearing, fit a hearing aid, counsel and rehabilitate, evaluate treatment for tinnitus, and help with swim molds, ear molds, and noise protectors.