Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be caused by age, noise exposure and genetics. One in three adults over age 60 has hearing loss, and nearly half of people ages 75 to 85 have hearing loss. It can be accompanied by a ringing or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus).

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At UC Health, we are experts in the most complex conditions of the ear that affect your hearing and balance. Our team of subspecialists use the latest techniques backed by research to accurately diagnose your condition and deliver treatment for the best results.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Hearing & Balance team at 513-475-8400.

Our Otology & Neurotology subspecialists bring their advanced training and expertise in neurologic and structural disorders of the ear to diagnose and treat every patient. At UC Health, our team works closely with neurosurgeons to deliver leading-edge procedures to treat even the most complex conditions.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Otology & Neurotology team at 513-475-8400. For cochlear implant or bone-anchored hearing aid appointments, you can reach us at cochlearimplant@uchealth.com.

Our Smell, Hearing & Communication Disorders Center brings together subspecialists who are experts in the full spectrum of neurologic disorders of the senses. Knowing that these conditions often have more than one cause, our highly trained teams collaborate to bring you an accurate diagnosis and customize your treatment plan backed by the latest research.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Smell, Hearing & Communication Disorders Center team at 866-941-8264.

About This Condition

Understanding Hearing Loss

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss affects millions of adults in the U.S. Many things can harm hearing. Older adults are the largest group affected by hearing loss. This can happen from:

  • Too much noise.

  • Certain medicines.

  • Infections caused by bacteria or viruses.

  • Head injury.

  • Head tumors.

  • Stroke.

  • Inherited conditions.

As you age, some hearing loss is normal. But long-term exposure to loud noise can speed up the loss. You lose more than the ability to hear how loud a sound is. You also lose the ability to hear certain types of sounds. For example, you might not be able to hear some of the high-pitched sounds of a child's voice.


With aging, tiny hair cells in the inner ear undergo changes. Nerve cells, also part of the inner ear, can also be affected. This is called presbycusis. Most people don't notice normal hearing loss until their middle years. Others might not notice it until late in their lives. It's most often a slow and painless process. Presbycusis can generally be helped with hearing aids very effectively.

Accelerated loss

Exposure to loud noise may cause brief hearing loss and ringing in your ears called tinnitus. If your exposure was short, you may recover. But long-term exposure day after day can affect your hearing for life.

Signs of Hearing Loss

Contact your healthcare provider if you:

  • Have to strain to hear normal conversation.

  • Have to watch other people’s faces very carefully to follow what they’re saying.

  • Need to ask people to repeat what they’ve said.

  • Often misunderstand what people are saying.

  • Turn the volume of the television or radio up so high that others complain.

  • Feel that people are mumbling when they’re talking to you.

  • Find that the effort to hear leaves you feeling tired and irritated.

  • Notice, when using the phone, that you hear better with one ear than the other.

Diagnosing hearing loss

Your hearing must be tested to find the nature and extent of your hearing loss. Hearing tests show if hearing aids are needed. They also show what sounds you can and can’t hear, so hearing aids can be customized for your personal needs. You will likely also be examined to find out if a medical problem has caused your hearing loss.

Testing your hearing

To evaluate your hearing loss, the following tests may be done:

  • A hearing test shows which tones, sounds, and  speech sounds you can and can’t hear. You wear earphones that are attached to an audiometer (computer) in another room. You will be asked to respond when you hear tones and sounds that come through the earphones.

  • Word recognition tests show if you can tell the difference between certain words. This helps identify which tones or sounds you are having trouble hearing.

  • Other tests may be done to learn more about your hearing loss, such as measuring how well your eardrums are working.

Your medical exam

An exam must be done to find out if your hearing loss is caused by a medical problem. During the exam, your ears, nose, and throat are examined Audiologists do not examine noses and throats, only ears. Also, you’ll be asked about your health, your hearing, and any family history of hearing loss. Your answers will help the healthcare provider understand the problem.

Treatment for hearing loss

In some people, hearing loss can be corrected with surgery. For others, hearing aids or other medical devices often can treat the hearing loss.

To find what's causing your hearing loss, and how to manage it, see your healthcare provider for a complete exam. If you think you have hearing loss, answer these questions:

  • Do you have a problem hearing when you're on the phone?

  • Do you have trouble following the conversation when 2 or more people are talking at the same time?

  • Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?

  • Do you have to strain to understand conversation?

  • Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background?

  • Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?

  • Do many people you talk to seem to mumble or not speak clearly?

  • Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?

  • Do you have trouble understanding when women and children talk?

  • Do people get annoyed because you misunderstand what they say?

  • Do friends or relatives express concern about your hearing ability?

  • Do you hear a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound a lot?   

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you may want to see a healthcare provider. You can see an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT or otolaryngologist) or an audiologist for a hearing assessment.

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