General signs of hearing loss
It can be hard to tell if you’re losing your hearing. Other people may notice it before you do.
Early signs of hearing loss include:
- difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say, especially in noisy places
- asking people to repeat themselves
- listening to music or watching TV with the volume higher than other people need
- difficulty hearing on the phone
- finding it hard to keep up with a conversation
- feeling tired or stressed from having to concentrate while listening
These problems are often caused by hearing loss that can happen as you get older. This is permanent, but treatments such as hearing aids can help.
Signs of hearing loss in 1 ear
It’s not always easy to tell if you’ve lost hearing in 1 ear, as you may still be able to hear with your other ear. Signs of a hearing problem in 1 ear include:
- your hearing is worse when sound comes from 1 side
- all sounds seem generally quieter than usual
- finding it hard to tell where sound is coming from
- difficulty ignoring background noise or telling different sounds apart
- finding speech unclear
- difficulty hearing in noisy places or over long distances
Hearing loss in 1 ear is often caused by sound temporarily being unable to pass through the ear – for example, because of earwax or an ear infection.
Causes of hearing loss
Hearing loss can have many different causes. For example:
- Sudden hearing loss in 1 ear may be due to earwax, an ear infection, a perforated (burst) eardrum or Ménière’s disease.
- Sudden hearing loss in both ears may be due to damage from a very loud noise, or taking certain medicines that can affect hearing.
- Gradual hearing loss in 1 ear may be due to something inside the ear, such as fluid (glue ear), a bony growth (otosclerosis) or a build-up of skin cells (cholesteatoma)
- Gradual hearing loss in both ears is usually caused by ageing or exposure to loud noises over many years.
This may give you an idea of the reason for hearing loss – but make sure you see a GP to get a proper diagnosis. It might not always be possible to identify an obvious cause.
Preventing hearing loss
It’s not always possible to prevent hearing loss, but there are some simple things you can do to reduce the risk of damaging your hearing. These include:
- not having your television, radio or music on too loud
- using headphones that block out more outside noise, instead of turning up the volume
- wearing ear protection (such as ear defenders) if you work in a noisy environment, such as a garage workshop or a building site; special vented earplugs that allow some noise in are also available for musicians
- using ear protection at loud concerts and other events where there are high noise levels
- not inserting objects into your or your children’s ears – this includes fingers, cotton buds, cotton wool and tissues