Hearing loss that occurs gradually as you age (presbycusis) is common. About 25 percent of people in the United States between the ages of 55 and 64 have some degree of hearing loss. For those older than 65, the number of people with some hearing loss is almost 1 in 2.
Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises are significant factors that contribute to hearing loss. Other factors, such as excessive earwax, can temporarily prevent your ears from conducting sounds as well as they should.
You can't reverse most types of hearing loss. However, you don't have to live in a world of muted, less distinct sounds. You and your doctor or a hearing specialist can take steps to improve what you hear.
Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:
Muffling of speech and other sounds
Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people
Trouble hearing consonants
Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
Withdrawal from conversations
Avoidance of some social settings
When to see a doctor
If you have a sudden loss of hearing, particularly in one ear, seek immediate medical attention.
Talk to your doctor if difficulty hearing is interfering with your daily life. Your hearing may have deteriorated if:
You find that it's harder to understand everything that's said in conversation, especially when there's background noise
Sounds seem muffled
You find yourself having to turn the volume higher when you listen to music, the radio or television