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Hearing loss can happen any time, but it is more common in people as they age. You may not even realize you have hearing loss. It's possible that you have adapted your work and social life so that you only frequent situations where you can hear easily. Sometimes it takes friends and family to point out that your hearing isn't as sharp as it used to be. Do they ever ask you why you shout into the phone or blast the TV volume?
How It Happens
Hearing loss can occur gradually, or it can happen suddenly through an injury. It may be genetic or the result of long-term exposure to noise. Something as innocent as earwax build-up can prevent sound from travelling to the eardrum and make it difficult to hear. A blow to the ear, drastic change in air pressure or piercing noise can rupture the eardrum, causing some hearing loss. However, hearing loss can also be caused by something more serious, such as a tumor, severe infection or unusual bone structure.
Signs of Hearing Loss
What To Do
Clear your ears. If earwax is blocking the ear canal, the path to better hearing is quick and easy. You may soften the wax at home by applying a few drops of mineral oil or baby oil into the ear, twice a day, for five days. When the wax has had a chance to soften, take a rubber bulb syringe and fill it with warm water. Gently squirt the water into your ear to flush out the wax. Rest your ear on a towel to let it drain.
See an audiologist. These specialists use a variety of tests to detect the source of hearing loss and evaluate the depth of the problem. Tuning fork tests are used to determine whether your eardrum or inner ear nerves are damaged. Audiometer tests involve wearing earphones and listening to different tones one ear at a time.
A hearing aid can help clarify sound and turn up the volume. Audiologists can recommend a type of device and fit you with the appropriate equipment. They can advise you as to whether you need a hearing aid on one or both ears. Severe hearing loss can be partly restored with surgery that places a cochlear implant, an electronic device that helps process sound, inside the ear.