Tests to diagnose hearing loss may include:

  • Physical exam. A health care provider looks in your ear for possible causes of your hearing loss, such as earwax or an infection. The way your ear is formed might cause hearing problems, as well.
  • Screening tests. A whisper test, which involves covering one ear at a time while listening to words spoken at many volumes, can show how you react to other sounds.
  • App-based hearing tests. You can use a mobile app on your tablet to screen yourself for hearing loss.
  • Tuning fork tests. Tuning forks are two-pronged, metal instruments that make sounds when hit. Simple tests with tuning forks can help find hearing loss. They may also show where the ear damage is.
  • Audiometer tests. A specialist in hearing loss, known as an audiologist, does these more-thorough tests. Sounds and words are directed through earphones to each ear. Each tone is repeated at low levels to find the quietest sound you can hear.


You can get help for hearing problems. Treatment depends on the cause of the hearing loss and how bad it is.

Options include:

  • Removing earwax. Earwax blockage is a cause of hearing loss that can be fixed. A health care provider might remove earwax using suction or a small tool with a loop on the end.
  • Surgery. Some types of hearing loss can be treated with surgery. For repeated infections that cause fluid in the ear, a care provider might put in small tubes that help ears drain.
  • Hearing aids. If hearing loss is from damage to the inner ear, a hearing aid can be helpful. A hearing specialist, known as an audiologist, can talk about how hearing aids can help and what kinds there are. Audiologists also can fit you with a hearing aid.
  • Cochlear implants. When a regular hearing aid isn't likely to help much, a cochlear implant might be an option. A cochlear implant isn't like a hearing aid that makes sound stronger and directs it into the ear canal. Instead, a cochlear implant goes around the parts of the inner ear that don't work to spur the hearing nerve.

    An audiologist and a health care provider trained in the ears, nose and throat (ENT) can tell you the risks and benefits.

Mayo Clinic Minute: Hearing aids not 'one-size-fits-all'

Cynthia Hogan, Ph.D., Audiology, Mayo Clinic

Dr. Hogan: "Hearing aids, because they're digital, can be adjusted over a wide range of hearing loss."

That's one reason why audiologist Dr. Cynthia Hogan says with these devices, one-size-fits-all does not apply.

Dr. Hogan: "So there isn't one best hearing aid for older people versus younger people. We try to choose a hearing aid that's going to fit the person's needs."

Important decisions include whether the device will have rechargeable batteries or ones that need to be replaced, and whether the hearing aid will sit behind or in the ear.

Dr. Hogan: "This is a full-shell, in-the-ear hearing aid. And, so, it fits all into the ear."

One of the benefits of this device is wearers can answer and listen to a phone call as they have their whole life. Some hearing aids can even connect to a person's cellphone.

Dr. Hogan: "They can watch videos or things like that directly from their phone to their hearing aid."

An audiologist like Dr. Hogan can help you sort through all the options and create a personal solution for your hearing problem.

For the Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Jeff Olsen.

Coping and support

These tips can help you stay connected with hearing loss:

  • Tell your friends and family. Let them know that you've lost some hearing.
  • Put yourself in a good position to hear. Face the person you're talking to.
  • Turn off background noise. For example, noise from a television can make talking and listening harder.
  • Ask others to speak up, but not too loud, and speak clearly. Most people will be helpful if they know you're having trouble hearing them.
  • Get the other person's attention before speaking. Don't try to talk to someone in a different room.
  • Choose quiet settings. In public, choose a place to talk that's away from noisy areas.
  • Consider using a listening aid. Hearing devices can help you hear better while lessening noises around you. These include TV-listening systems or devices that make phone sounds stronger, smartphone or tablet apps, and closed-circuit systems in public places.

Preparing for your appointment

If you think you have hearing loss, call your health care provider. Your provider might refer you to a hearing specialist, also known as an audiologist.

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

  • Write down your symptoms and how long you've had them. Is the hearing loss in one ear or both? Ask friends and family to help you make the list. They may know of changes that you don't.
  • Write down key medical information, especially related to ear problems. Include any repeated infections, injury to your ear or ear surgery you've had. Also list medicines, vitamins or supplements you take, including doses.
  • Describe your work history. Include jobs with high noise levels, even if they're from a long time ago.
  • Take a family member or friend along. Someone with you can help you remember all the information you get.
  • Write down questions for your health care provider.

For hearing loss, some questions to ask include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • What else might be causing my symptoms?
  • What tests do I need?
  • Should I stop taking any of my medicines?
  • Should I see a specialist?

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider might ask you questions, including:

  • How would you describe your symptoms? Does either ear hurt? Do they leak fluid?
  • Did your symptoms begin all at once?
  • Do you have ringing, roaring or hissing in your ears?
  • Do you have dizziness or balance problems?
  • Do you have a history of ear infections, ear trauma or ear surgery?
  • Have you ever worked in a job with loud noise, flown airplanes or been in military combat?
  • Does your family complain that you keep the television or radio too loud?
  • Do you have trouble hearing people who talk in a low voice?
  • Do you have trouble hearing on the telephone?
  • Do you often ask others to speak up or repeat themselves? Does this happen more often in a noisy setting, such as a crowded restaurant?
  • Can you hear when someone comes up behind you?
  • Does your hearing affect your quality of life?
  • Would you be willing to try a hearing aid?
March 30, 2023
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