WebMD Logo Icon
WebMD Connect to Care helps you find services to manage your health. When you purchase any of these services, WebMD may receive a fee. WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page. X

4 Hearing Loss Facts You Probably Didn't Know

By Manjari Bansal
Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on April 26, 2021
Hearing loss progresses gradually and can significantly impact your well-being. This article discusses 4 surprising hearing loss facts.

Millions of Americans are affected by some form of hearing difficulty. Despite how common it is, there are many things you may not know about hearing loss. Here are four surprising hearing loss facts.

Loud noise can cause hearing loss.

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, nearly 40 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 experience noise-induced hearing loss. Loud noise can permanently damage tiny hair cells in your inner ear that transmit sound to your brain.

“One reason for an increase in noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is due to earbud and headphone use,” Sarah Lundstrom, AuD, an audiologist at HearCare Audiology Center in Venice, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Many young people listen to music at a loud level and for a prolonged time, which can lead to hearing loss later in life.”

You may not notice the early signs of hearing loss.

Most of the time hearing loss happens gradually. Your friends and family may notice you are having difficulty hearing before you do, according to the Hearing loss Association of America.

“Our brains are well-equipped to adapt to these slow changes,” Lundstrom says. “If you were to have a sudden hearing loss, you would almost certainly notice right away. We may notice in small ways, but often our friends and family are the first to notice changes when they feel they have to repeat themselves or your volume setting on the TV is higher than they would like.”

The Hearing Loss Association of America says you may have hearing loss if you experience the following symptoms:

  • You often feel that others are mumbling.
  • You have a hard time following conversations, especially in noisy environments (like in a crowded restaurant).
  • You find it difficult to speak on the phone.
  • Your alarm clock doesn’t wake you up.

You can be born with hearing loss or develop it later in life.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, hearing loss present at birth is called congenital hearing loss and has many causes. Causes of congenital hearing loss include the following: 

  • Premature birth
  • Infection
  • Birth injuries
  • Drug and alcohol use while the mother is pregnant
  • Diabetes or high blood pressure (in the mother)
  • Jaundice
  • Genetics

Hearing loss that happens after birth is called acquired hearing loss and can occur at any age. This type of hearing loss can be caused by the following:

  • Ear infections
  • Medicines that may damage ears (called ototoxic medications)
  • Loud noise
  • Head injury
  • Diseases like measles, meningitis or chickenpox

Most hearing loss cannot be reversed.

According to Mayo Clinic, most cases of hearing loss cannot be reversed. However, hearing loss can often be treated or prevented.

“Most hearing loss is caused by nerve damage, in which case, it is permanent,” Lundstrom says. “If hearing loss is caused by infection or another medically treatable cause, there can often be improvement once the underlying cause is remedied. Hearing aids do not cure hearing loss or repair nerve damage, but they can help slow down change and help with further hearing loss.”

Hearing loss can be managed and treated.

The earlier you address the symptoms of hearing loss, the more likely you are to avoid irreversible damage. Get the answers you need to start treatment today.