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Hearing loss

3-minute read

You can have trouble with your hearing at any age, but help is available and there are ways to stop it from getting worse.

Signs of hearing loss

Sometimes it’s obvious - at times, you may not hear what people are saying to you. Other signs that you may be suffering from hearing loss are that you:

  • have troubles hearing in noisy places
  • have trouble understanding what people say
  • have trouble following conversations
  • have trouble understanding people unless they are facing you, you often ask people to repeat themselves
  • hear sounds as muffled, people are mumbling
  • have the TV up louder than other people
  • often miss your phone or doorbell ringing
  • there is a constant buzzing or ringing in your ears
  • loud noises cause you more discomfort than before

Some people also get tinnitus, in which it sounds like you can hear cicadas much of the time.

It can be hard to pick up whether or not children have trouble hearing. Some signs that there might be problems are that:

  • your baby doesn't startle at a loud noise, or turn their head to a sound
  • they start speaking later than other kids or don't understand simple words like 'bye bye' at 4-8 months
  • their speech is unclear, compared to other kids their age
  • they want the TV volume up too high
  • they don’t hear or understand directions

Find out more about hearing loss in children on the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website. You should talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in your or your child’s hearing.

Why is my hearing getting worse?

Nearly everybody finds their hearing gets worse as they get older. Genetics play a part - some families have hearing problems earlier than other families.

Some people have their hearing damaged through many years of being exposed to noise at work. This is especially true for people who work among a lot of loud noise such as live music performances, mining, building or farming. Young people who listen to loud music through headphones are also at risk.

Other causes include:

  • an ear infection, or repeated ear infections
  • a head injury
  • exposure to certain chemicals or medications like aspirin, some antibiotics and some cancer drugs

Testing your hearing

There is an online test on the Know Your Noise website, funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, that can help you work out whether your hearing might be a problem. You could also talk to your doctor. Learn more about hearing tests.

Treatment

Most people can’t have their hearing loss reversed, but there are treatments available to help you hear better including:

Find out more about hearing loss prevention and the Australian Government’s hearing services program.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2018


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