Hearing Loss

Symptoms, causes and treatment

Understanding hearing loss

Hearing loss can creep up gradually. Some sounds remain audible, while others, like higher-pitched sounds, become difficult to hear. If you do not hear well, it’s hard to understand and talk to your colleagues, friends and family members. This is why hearing health is vital to a person’s overall well-being.

Hearing loss facts

  • Age-related hearing loss is ranked 5th lading cause of disability across ages1.
  •  World Health Organization (WHO) estimates on prevalence2:
  • 466 million people worldwide
  • 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 years
  • Numbers are projected to increase
  • Associated with a number of health issues:
  • Less social interaction and/or increased loneliness3
  • Less participation in activities with friends or events4
  • Increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia5
  • Increased risk of falls6
 Sensorineural Hearing Loss | Hearing Loss Treatment with Phonak

Well-Hearing is Well-Being

From time with loved ones, to your favorite TV shows and songs — whenever sound becomes less clear, important things are lost. This is true both immediately and in the long run. Your physical, cognitive and social-emotional well-being state can also be affected by a loss of hearing.7 At Phonak, we believe hearing well equates to well-being, and it is essential to living life to the fullest.

 Signs of Hearing Loss | Phonak


Signs of hearing loss

Hearing loss does not simply mean someone has issues hearing soft sounds. A person dealing with hearing loss may perceive speech and other sounds as being “muffled,” and they may also have difficulty hearing individual words or consonants, especially in noisy environments.
Often you will notice that a person with hearing problems turns up the volume of their TV or radio to very high levels. They may also ask others to speak more slowly and clearly, or to repeat themselves during conversations.

Sudden hearing loss is generally rare; most hearing loss is gradual. There are many symptoms, which often include behavioral changes — such as fewer conversations, lost interest in social events, increased isolation and even exhaustion and depression. Please see our section on Understanding Hearing Loss, for more on telltale signs of hearing loss and how to detect them.

What does it feel like to experience a loss of hearing? Phonak has designed a Hearing Loss Simulation to help you better understand what it sounds like, through a series of examples. You can also take our free Online Hearing Screener to gauge your own hearing.


Hearing loss causes and types

Types of hearing loss are usually categorized by severity, and where issues arise anatomically in the ear (inner, middle or outer ear). Three categories are commonly used to distinguish hearing loss.

  • Conductive hearing loss
    Conductive hearing loss refers to hearing loss that arises because sound cannot get through the outer or middle ear. It is often temporary and can often be treated with medicine or surgery. This type of hearing loss can be caused by fluid, earwax or an infection in the ear.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss
    Sensorineural hearing loss comes from issues with the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent. It can be related to genetics and present from birth — though age, occupation, loud music, noise exposure and even medication are all common causes. It is generally permanent, and cannot be treated with medicine or surgery, though in most cases, hearing aids or cochlear implants can help.
  • Mixed hearing loss
    This is a combination of conductive, as well as sensorineural hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss results when there’s a problem in the outer or middle ear — as well as one affecting the inner ear, or auditory nerve. Common causes include head injuries, long-term infections, and even disorders that run in your family.

Additionally, hearing loss is defined by severity – ranging from mild and moderate, up to severe and profound hearing loss. People may also experience sudden hearing loss. Types are also defined by whether one or both ears is affected, and whether it was present at birth or acquired at a later point in time.

Tinnitus is another common condition — it is more commonly known as ringing in the ears. It is only heard by those affected and can be detrimental to focus, concentration, study, work and more. Remedies, therapy and hearing aids are all available to treat it.

To learn more, please refer to our section on types of hearing loss as well as our section on causes of hearing loss.


Hearing loss in children and teens

Children with hearing loss face a “doorway” issue. Simply put, sound does not reach their brain the way that it should, as impairments in either ear block the doorway to the brain. This can affect the development of neural pathways, as well as language, relationships and interactions.

Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Treatment | Phonak


For teens, it’s about fully accessing the world around them. It’s about creating connections and pursuing their passions. Hearing well can help lead toward success in the classroom and in their personal life. Phonak offers hearing solutions to help teens connect.


Helping a loved one

Family members are vital in caring for and supporting an individual with hearing loss. Solid support systems help circumvent many obstacles and overcome many challenges — and fortunately, there are many ways to help a loved one.


Hearing loss treatment

Treatment options vary according to hearing loss causes. Conductive hearing loss can often be improved with medication or surgery. Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, is mostly supported with hearing aids — though if the hearing loss is especially profound, it may involve cochlear implants. Sudden hearing loss depends on many factors.
If you think that you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss it is best to speak to an expert. There are several types which can assess your hearing based on tests, and then help you find a solution that is right for you.

Helping a Loved One in Hearing Treatment | Phonak

An audiologist

A highly trained health care professional who is recognized for their specialty in hearing assessments, and expertise in providing solutions for hearing health care.

ENT physician

A physician who specializes in hearing problems and medical issues regarding the ear, nose and throat (ENT). May also be referred to as an Otologist, Otolaryngologist and/or neuro-Otologist.

Hearing care professional

A hearing care professional is someone who helps people with hearing loss. There is a range of professionals in the field who are qualified to test for hearing loss, recommend hearing aid solutions, and fit and service hearing aids.
To find an expert in your area please refer to our hearing specialist finder.


Signs of hearing loss and experts who can help

People often think of hearing loss as a volume problem, but this is not true. It’s more than issues with hearing soft sounds. Common signs include:

  • Sounds and speech sounding “muffled”
  • Difficulty hearing individual words or consonants, especially in noisy environments
  • Setting TV and radio to very high volumes
  • Asking others to speak more slowly, or repeat themselves more frequently
  • Changes in behavior, such as a lost interest in social events or no longer taking part in conversations

To learn more, please refer to our section on signs of hearing loss — or to get a better understanding of what hearing loss sounds like, listen to the examples from our hearing loss simulation.

Learning more about your hearing is important. Technological developments, stories from other users, practical tips, common issues and more can all impact what you hear and how you live your life. Visit our section on Hearing Health News here.

How good is your hearing? Take our online test in only 3 minutes!


Find an Audiologist in your area

Find an Audiologist

Let us help you find a hearing specialist near you. They can provide more information about hearing health, have your hearing checked and go over your options.

Find an Audiologist

Hearing connects with the loved ones

Comfortably connected

The clearer we hear, the more we can make ourselves heard! Voices are our connection to the world and allow us to interact with friends, family and people around us. It’s our means of connecting as living beings. But ask yourself, what good is a voice if you can’t hear it?

Read more

Online Hearing Test

Online Hearing Test

Take our online hearing test to receive some quick and useful feedback about your hearing.

Online Hearing Test


1. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). (2018). Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Seattle, WA: IHME. Retrieved from http://www.healthdata.org/sites/default/files/files/policy_report/2019/GBD_2017_Booklet.pdf on June 1st, 2020.
2. World Health Organization (WHO). (2018). WHO global estimates on prevalence of hearing loss. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/pbd/deafness/estimates/en/ on June 1st, 2020.
3. Kramer, S.E., Kapteyn, T.S., Kuik, D.J., & Deeg, D.J.H. (2002). The association of hearing impairment and chronic diseases with psychosocial health status in older age. Journal of Aging and Health, 14(1), 122–137.
4. Vas, V., Akeroyd, M. A., & Hall, D. A. (2017). A data-driven synthesis of research evidence for domains of hearing loss, as reported by adults with hearing loss and their communication partners. Trends in Hearing, 21: 1-25.
5. Loughrey, D.G., Kelly, M.E., Kelley, G.A., Brennan, S., & Lawlor, B. A. (2018). Association of Age-Related Hearing Loss With Cognitive Function, Cognitive Impairment, and Dementia. JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, 144(2), 115-126.
6. Jiam, N.T.-L., Li, C., & Agrawal, Y. (2016). Hearing loss and falls: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Laryngoscope, 126(11), 2587–2596
7. Vercammen, C., Ferguson, M., Kramer, S.E., et al. (2020). Well-Hearing is Well-Being. Hearing Review, 27(3), 18-22.