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Online Hearing Test
Find out how good your hearing is in just three minutes. The online hearing test provides valuable information about your hearing.

Hearing impairment has a significant impact on the daily lives of millions all over the world. For most people, hearing loss is a gradual progression that becomes noticeable as they age. However, hearing loss is not limited to the elderly and affects a significant number of young people, including children. Fortunately, with early detection, many hearing impairments can be improved or even fully corrected with the assistance of a hearing aid.

First signs of hearing loss

Hearing loss usually develops gradually. For many, it’s imperceptible at first because the brain compensates for the hearing deficiencies over a long period of time. Hearing loss is rarely acute or all the sudden unless it’s accompanied by an accident that impacts the auditory system. Hearing loss can also lead to early dementia and cognitive decline. A study conducted at Johns Hopkins found that older adults with hearing loss were far more likely to experience cognitive issues than individuals with normal hearing.

A quick way to determine if you are experiencing early-onset hearing loss is to ask yourself these questions:
  • When you are spoken to, does it sound like mumbling?
  • Do you often ask for people to repeat themselves?
  • When watching TV, do you have to keep it loud?
  • Do conversations in noisy environments stress you out?
  • Does it take considerable concentration to have conversations with one or more people in noisy environments?
Find out if you need a hearing aid by taking a free online hearing test.

Types of hearing loss

Hearing loss is categorized into three types: 
  • Conductive—This occurs due to obstructions in the outer or middle ear from fluid, tumors, or earwax. The obstruction prevents sound from getting to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss can be treated surgically or with medication.
  • Sensorineural—This is the most common type of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear nerves and hair cells are damaged. Damage can be due to age, excessive noise, or viral infections. This type of hearing loss impacts the pathways from your inner ear to your brain. Sensorineural hearing loss can be treated and helped with the use of hearing aids.
  • Mixed—This type is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
There is also acute hearing loss or sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL). This is an unexplained, rapid loss of hearing either all at once or over a few days. Although doctors are not 100 percent sure of the cause of SSHL, they have deduced it’s caused by a malfunction of the sensory organs of the inner ear. Sudden deafness frequently affects only one ear.

What are the common causes of hearing loss?

Hearing loss is not strictly age-related. It can be hereditary, triggered by loud noises, medications, infections, or an injury to any part of the ear. Here are the most common types of hearing loss and what causes them.

Age—It’s normal for hearing loss due to the degeneration of inner ear structures occurring over time. Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) usually starts between the ages of 45 and 65.

Otosclerosis—This ear disease results from the hardening of the bones in the middle ear, causing them to cease vibrating which causes conductive hearing loss. 

Foreign objects—Using cotton swabs can push earwax deeper into the ear canal. This increases the risk of infection. Any foreign object in the ear can cause pain, infection and hearing loss if left untreated. 

Smoking—According to a study presented in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), smokers are nearly 70 percent more likely than non-smokers to suffer hearing loss.
Ear infections—Chronic ear infections can cause temporary hearing loss due to the buildup of fluid in the middle ear. However, it usually goes away with treatment.

Meniere's disease—This is an inner ear disorder that causes severe dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), hearing loss, and congestion in the ear. It typically affects only one ear.

Ototoxic medications—This class of medications includes Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) recognizes this class of medications can cause hearing loss.
Childhood diseases—Childhood illnesses such as measles, whooping cough, and mumps, or any illness that result in high fever may damage the cochlea.

Congenital—These are most often caused by illness or trauma before birth or during birth such as maternal diabetes or viral diseases and low birth weight.
Heredity—Some genetic factors may make you more likely to get susceptible to hearing loss.

Excessive/loud noises—According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noise above 70 decibels (dB) over a prolonged period of time can negatively affect hearing. Sounds above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears. Noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable by wearing ear protection. 

What can be done about hearing loss?

Thankfully, there are several treatments and options available toMiddle aged woman with glasses and overalls treat hearing loss. The first step is getting a diagnosis. Once you notice any symptoms of hearing loss, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible in order to get the proper treatment. 

If hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear, then a hearing aid may be helpful. A hearing aid amplifies sound and directs it into your ear canal. Innovative technology can separate voices from background noise making conversation a smoother exchange. The hearing aids in both ears communicate with each other, improving directional hearing and orientation.

An audiologist will discuss the potential benefits with you and fit you with a device.

Do hearing aids help with mild hearing loss?

Most daily sounds are within a frequency range of 500 to 3000 Hertz (Hz). Hearing curves that fall 25 decibels (dB) signify a mild hearing loss. A hearing aid noticeably improves your hearing within this range.

How can hearing loss be prevented?

In some instances, hearing loss can be somewhat prevented. You can wear proper ear protection and limit exposure to loud noises and other hearing loss risk factors. However, in many cases, early detection is the best preventative measure. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association recommends that adults be screened at least every decade through age 50 and at 3-year intervals thereafter.

Hearing loss in numbers

  • One in five people in the U.S. lives with hearing loss. That’s approximately 48 million people in the U.S.
  • 16 percent of the world's population (around 1.1 billion people) are affected by hearing loss and 34 million of them are children. 
  • About every two to three in every 1,000 newborns experience significant hearing loss.
  • 1.1 billion people aged between 12 to 35  are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings.
  • About 60 percent of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes.
  • Only 17 percent of those who could benefit from the use of a hearing aid actually use one.

The basis used is the World Health Organization (WHO) definition, which states that a person with hearing loss of more than 25 decibels (dB) has hearing damage.

Other topics

What is acute hearing loss?
Tinnitus Causes and Symptoms
Getting a Hearing Test