Hearing loss usually comes on gradually but may develop suddenly. The symptoms may include:
Decreased ability to hear any of the following:
Higher pitched soundsLower pitched soundsAll soundsSpeech when there is background noiseLightheadedness or vertigo
Ringing, hissing, or roaring sounds in the ears—tinnitusSome sounds seem too loudProblems with balanceEar painFeeling of fullness or pressure in the ear (with earwax or fluid)
Some people may not realize that they have hearing loss, especially if it develops over a number of years or if it happens in one ear. Common experiences where people begin to notice changes include:
Difficulty hearing on the telephoneDifficulty understanding speech when there is background noise, like in a restaurant, crowd, or at a partyDifficulty following a conversation when 2 or more people are talking at onceMisunderstanding what other people are saying and responding inappropriatelyMisundertanding words that have sound similarAsking people to repeat what they said or speak more slowly, loudly, and clearlyDifficulty understanding the speech of women and children, which is higher pitchedGetting complaints from others that you have the TV or radio volume too highWithdrawing from conversations because you have trouble hearing
Symptoms of deafness or hearing loss in infants that may be noted:
Does not react to loud sounds or voicesDoes not turn head toward you when you talk
Does not turn toward a new soundDoes not respond to changes in tone of voiceDoes not imitate own voice or make babbling or cooing soundsDoes not respond to rattles or musical toys
Does not respond to own name, another person’s voice, or telephone ringingDoes not make babbling sounds or know words for common thingsDoes not look at things when someone talks about them
Does not experiment with own voiceDoes not imitate easy words or soundsDoes not focus on common objects or familiar people when askedDelayed speech
Does not know or say even a small number of wordsDoes not follow simple directionsDelayed speech
Hearing loss. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Hearing-Loss.aspx. Accessed September 18, 2013.
Hearing loss. NIH SeniorHealth website. Available at:
http://nihseniorhealth.gov/hearingloss/hearinglossdefined/01.html. Accessed September 18, 2013.
Hearing loss and older adults. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at:
http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/older.aspx. Updated February 2012. Accessed September 18, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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