When To See a Doctor About Hearing Loss

Written by the Nano Hearing Aids Team
Reviewed for Accuracy by Lindsay Roberts, AuD.

Lindsay Roberts
When To See a Doctor About Hearing Loss

Do you find it difficult to hear conversations or loud noises in quiet environments? If so, you might need to consider seeing a doctor to determine if you have severe hearing loss. 

However, not everyone who experiences hearing loss has severe hearing loss. Some people have mild to moderate hearing loss and their hearing can potentially be improved with OTC hearing aids - which do not require a visit to the doctor, prescription, or hearing test.

When To See a Doctor About Hearing Loss

It’s important to schedule an appointment with a doctor if you experience any of the below signs or symptoms. These are considered to be a potential indication of severe hearing loss, in which case prescription hearing aids might be required:

Difficulty Hearing in Everyday Situations

If you find it challenging to hear and understand conversations even in quiet environments, or when others are speaking loudly or directly to you, it's typically an indication to see a doctor. For instance, you might struggle to follow discussions at family gatherings or during work meetings, despite everyone's efforts to make themselves heard.

Tinnitus Accompanying Hearing Loss

Tinnitus, characterized by ringing, buzzing, or other noises in the ears, often accompanies severe hearing loss. If you experience persistent tinnitus alongside difficulty hearing, it's important to consult a healthcare professional.

Frequent Misunderstanding of Speech

You might misinterpret instructions from your boss or have difficulty comprehending important information during a doctor's appointment, leading to confusion and difficulty communicating.

Withdrawal from Social Situations

You might avoid gatherings, parties, or outings with friends and family because you struggle to communicate effectively, as a result of being unable to hear.

Which Type of Doctor Treats Severe Hearing Loss?

If you suspect you have severe hearing loss and schedule an appointment with a doctor, you will likely be evaluated by a primary care physician, audiologist (hearing specialist), or ENT doctor. If they determine that you have profound hearing loss or severe and/or permanent hearing loss, they might prescribe you a hearing aid for your ears or cochlear implants (which are surgically implanted devices that stimulate the auditory nerve).

What To Expect During a Hearing Evaluation

During a hearing evaluation, your doctor will conduct several comprehensive hearing tests. These might include pure-tone audiometry tests and speech audiometry tests to evaluate your ability to hear different sound frequencies and understand speech clearly.

Your doctor will also examine your ear canal, eardrum and middle ear to rule out any physical issues like earwax blockage or ear infection that could contribute to hearing problems. Based on the results of these tests, your doctor can determine if your hearing loss is severe.

Potential Causes of Hearing Loss

While hearing loss can occur suddenly, age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is much more common as people get older. It tends to gradually develop over time as a result of the natural aging process and exposure to loud noises throughout life. 

In addition to aging, there are several other risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of experiencing hearing loss:

  • Age: The risk of hearing loss tends to increase with age.
  • Noise Exposure: Repeated exposure to a loud noise can damage the inner ear.
  • Genetics: Hearing loss can be passed down genetically in families. In this case, getting your hearing tested regularly is important for early detection, as hearing tests can identify changes in your hearing ability over time. 
  • Occupational Exposure: Working jobs where there are loud noises can put someone at a higher risk of having hearing loss.
  • Earwax Buildup: Excessive earwax can lead to a blockage of the ear canal, causing difficulty hearing.
  • Ear Infection: Chronic ear infections can potentially lead to hearing loss. 
  • Medical Conditions: Diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions can put someone at higher risk of developing hearing loss.
  • Medications: Some medications can be ototoxic, potentially harming the inner ear.
  • Head Injuries: Certain head injuries can cause hearing loss.
  • Use of Headphones: Listening to music or sounds through headphones can put people at a higher risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss.
What Causes Hearing Loss
Does Everyone Need To See a Doctor For Hearing Loss?

While it’s recommended to visit a doctor if you suspect you might have severe hearing loss, it’s not usually necessary if you have perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. The symptoms and signs of hearing loss that is mild to moderate can include:

Trouble hearing conversations in noisy places and with a lot of background noise or loud sounds

Difficulty hearing someone on the phone

Feeling tired from listening

Finding it difficult to follow conversations and hear people in group settings

Needing to turn up the volume on the TV or radio, even if others say that it’s loud

Treating Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss

OTC hearing aids might be the perfect solution to improve your hearing if you have perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. OTC hearing aids do not require a prescription, hearing exam, or doctor’s appointment. They are FDA-regulated devices and are very straightforward to use. 

When using these hearing aids, all you need to do is pick the best dome size for your ears, turn them on, and put them in. It might feel strange at first for your ears and brain when wearing hearing aids, but you’ll adjust after several days or weeks.

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