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by Rosenblum LB

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss usually comes on gradually but may develop suddenly. The symptoms may include:
  • Decreased ability to hear any of the following:
    • Higher pitched sounds
    • Lower pitched sounds
    • All sounds
    • Speech when there is background noise
  • Lightheadedness or vertigo
  • Ringing, hissing, or roaring sounds in the ears—tinnitus
  • Some sounds seem too loud
  • Problems with balance
  • Ear pain
  • Feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear (with earwax or fluid)
Some people may not realize that they have hearing loss, especially if it develops over a number of years or if it happens in one ear. Common experiences where people begin to notice changes include:
  • Difficulty hearing on the telephone
  • Difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise, like in a restaurant, crowd, or at a party
  • Difficulty following a conversation when 2 or more people are talking at once
  • Misunderstanding what other people are saying and responding inappropriately
  • Misundertanding words that have sound similar
  • Asking people to repeat what they said or speak more slowly, loudly, and clearly
  • Difficulty understanding the speech of women and children, which is higher pitched
  • Getting complaints from others that you have the TV or radio volume too high
  • Withdrawing from conversations because you have trouble hearing
Symptoms of deafness or hearing loss in infants that may be noted:
  • 0-3 months:
    • Does not react to loud sounds or voices
    • Does not turn head toward you when you talk
  • 3-6 months:
    • Does not turn toward a new sound
    • Does not respond to changes in tone of voice
    • Does not imitate own voice or make babbling or cooing sounds
    • Does not respond to rattles or musical toys
  • 6-10 months:
    • Does not respond to own name, another person’s voice, or telephone ringing
    • Does not make babbling sounds or know words for common things
    • Does not look at things when someone talks about them
  • 10-15 months:
    • Does not experiment with own voice
    • Does not imitate easy words or sounds
    • Does not focus on common objects or familiar people when asked
    • Delayed speech
  • 15-18 months:
    • Does not know or say even a small number of words
    • Does not follow simple directions
    • Delayed speech


Hearing loss. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: Accessed September 18, 2013.
Hearing loss. NIH SeniorHealth website. Available at: Accessed September 18, 2013.
Hearing loss and older adults. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at: Updated February 2012. Accessed September 18, 2013.

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