Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Hearing Loss

Severe Hearing Loss

What Is Severe Hearing Loss?

Severe hearing loss means you can hear some sounds, but very poorly. You may not be able to hear someone speaking, even if they are using a normal voice. You may be able to hear only very loud sounds.

Hearing loss can happen in many different ways to people of all ages. It’s different for everyone. The key is to work with your health care team to find ways help you make the most of the hearing you have. There are many treatments that can help you or your child enjoy life.


Babies can be born with severe hearing loss, and children and adults can get it at any point in their lives. It can happen suddenly or over many years, in one or both ears, and be brief or long-lasting.

To understand how hearing loss happens, it helps to know how your ear works. Noise travels through the air as sound waves, which vibrate your eardrum and move three tiny bones inside your ear. That causes waves in the fluid that fills your inner ear. Those waves bend tiny hair cells, which are attached to nerves. They pass electrical signals to the main hearing nerve, called the cochlear nerve, which leads to the brain.

Your DNA has many genes that help build the structures involved in hearing. A problem with any of them can mean a baby is born without this sense. In about half of babies born with severe hearing loss, it’s because of a faulty gene. About 30% of babies born with it also have another genetic condition, like Down syndrome.

Babies also can lose their hearing because of a problem in the womb. Pregnant women who take certain medicines, such as the cancer drug thalidomide or drugs for tuberculosis, may have a baby with severe hearing loss. It can also happen if a woman has certain infections, like cytomegalovirus.

You also may lose your hearing as you get older. It can happen because of:

  • Noise. A single very loud noise, like a gunshot or explosion, can damage hearing. So can being around loud noises for a long time, like living next to an airport runway.
  • Diseases. Different conditions can put the ears or nerves involved in hearing at risk, including ear infections, brain tumors, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, or Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear.
  • Clogs. Ear canals stopped up with earwax or an object stuck inside can keep you from hearing well. You can also damage your ear if you try to remove it the wrong way.
  • Injury. Head trauma can damage the inside of the ears. So can some sports, like scuba diving or sky diving.
  • Medications. Certain drugs, including some that treat cancer, heart disease, and serious infections, can damage your ear and cause hearing loss. Sometimes, it’s permanent, but in other cases, the problem goes away after you stop taking the medicines.
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
Balding man in mirror
Treatments & solutions.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
Remember your finger
Are you getting more forgetful?
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
Myths and facts.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.