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Etiology of hearing loss in adults

Peter C Weber, MD, FACS
Section Editor
Daniel G Deschler, MD, FACS
Deputy Editor
Daniel J Sullivan, MD, MPH


Hearing loss is a common problem that everyone experiences from time to time. Most commonly it occurs when flying or traveling up a mountain, and a full sensation develops in the ears, leading to the feeling of wanting to pop the ears open in order to hear better. Diminished hearing may also occur during an ear infection. These causes of hearing loss are usually short-lived. The other extreme is the permanent sensorineural hearing loss that occurs with aging, which we will all experience to some degree. The causes of hearing loss are reviewed here, along with brief discussions of the management of certain conditions.

The evaluation of a patient with hearing loss and hearing loss in children are discussed separately. (See "Evaluation of hearing loss in adults" and "Hearing impairment in children: Etiology" and "Hearing impairment in children: Evaluation" and "Hearing impairment in children: Treatment".)


Hearing loss is a common chronic impairment, particularly for older adults. In the Beaver Dam cohort in the United States, the prevalence of hearing loss, defined by audiometry, increased steadily with age [1]:

3 percent ages 21 to 34

6 percent ages 35 to 44

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 10, 2017.
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