by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Hearing loss is a decrease in the ability to hear. It can happen in one or both ears. A person could also lose all or some of their ability to hear.

Hearing loss is the most common condition that can affect babies at birth. It can happen due to gene problems. It can also happen due to problems during birth or soon after, such as lack of oxygen, jaundice, or bleeding in the brain.

In older adults, hearing loss can happen due to:

  • Presbycusis—hearing loss that happens slowly and gets worse with age. This happens because of genetics and the environment.
  • Tinnitus—ringing, hissing, or roaring sounds in the ears. This is often caused by loud noise, medicines, or other health problems.
Normal Anatomy of the Ear
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There are 3 main types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive hearing loss is due to problems in the outer or middle ear. This makes it hard for sound to pass to the inner ear. This can be from problems along the ear canal, ear drum, and the small internal bones. It can often be corrected by medical treatment or surgery.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage to the inner ear or the major nerve pathway that goes from the inner ear to the brain. This type of hearing loss cannot be corrected. Hearing aids and assistive devices can help.
  • Mixed hearing loss is due to a mix of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
What are the risk factors for hearing loss?What are the symptoms of hearing loss?How is hearing loss diagnosed?What are the treatments for hearing loss?Are there screening tests for hearing loss?How can I reduce my risk of hearing loss?What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?Where can I get more information about hearing loss?


Chandrasekhar S.S., Tsai Do B.S., et al. American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF). Clinical Practice Guideline: Sudden Hearing Loss (Update). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019; 161 (1%5Fsuppl): S1-S45.

Hearing loss. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Accessed May 2, 2022.

Hearing loss and older adults. NIH Senior Health website. Available at: Accessed May 2, 2022.

Otosclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed May 2, 2022.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed May 2, 2022.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2022
  • Update Date: 05/02/2022