Signs of Hearing Loss

Understand the signs of hearing loss

If you’re being honest, it’s usually not hard to tell your hearing is going bad:

  • Conversations are starting to sound like mumbles
  • You’re driving others crazy constantly asking “what?”
  • You hear OK in quiet rooms, but your hearing crashes and burns in a noisy restaurant
  • You blast the TV volume so loud the neighbors complain, just so you can hear the words

If you’ve lost some hearing, then you should look at getting some help. Fortunately, the experts at Injoy can provide that help! We’ll go into depth to help you better understand the “why” of hearing loss.

Types of hearing loss

Hearing loss that occurs gradually as you age (presbycusis) is common. Almost half the people in the United States older than age 65 have some degree of hearing loss.

Hearing loss is defined as one of three types:

Conductive (involves outer or middle ear)

Sensorineural (involves inner ear)

Mixed (combination of the two)

It sounds obvious, but it’s still important to note that aging and chronic exposure to loud noises both contribute to hearing loss. Other factors, such as excessive earwax (seriously, clean your ears), can temporarily reduce how well your ears conduct sounds.

You can’t reverse most types of hearing loss, unfortunately. However, you and your Injoy specialist can take steps to improve what you hear. We’re going to get a bit more clinical as we go on, so stick with us and learn more about how your ears work!

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Parts Of The Ear

The ear is made up of three primary parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Each section is composed of different structures. All of these play distinct roles in the process of converting sound waves into signals that go to the brain.

The outer ear is composed of the visible part of the ear (pinna) and the ear canal. The cup-shaped pinna (PIN-uh) gathers sound waves from the environment and directs them into the ear canal.

How you hear

To understand how hearing loss occurs, it can be helpful to first understand how you hear.

Your ear consists of three major areas: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. Sound waves pass through the outer ear and cause vibrations at the eardrum. The eardrum and three small bones of the middle ear amplify the vibrations as they travel to the inner ear. There, the vibrations pass through fluid in a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear (cochlea).

Attached to nerve cells in the cochlea are thousands of tiny hairs that help translate sound vibrations into electrical signals that are transmitted to your brain. Your brain turns these signals into sound.


Again, it’s not too hard to tell if you’re experiencing the symptoms of hearing loss. You’ll probably notice pretty quickly. However, some of the most common signs may include:

  • Muffling of speech and other sounds
  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd
  • Trouble hearing consonants
  • Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly, and loudly
  • Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio (or having others tell you that the TV/radio is too loud)
  • Withdrawal from conversations
  • Avoidance of some social settings

When to see a doctor

If you have a sudden loss of hearing, particularly in one ear, seek immediate medical attention.


How Hearing Loss Can Occur

Causes of hearing loss include:

Damage to the inner ear – Aging and exposure to loud noise may cause wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea that send sound signals to the brain. When these hairs or nerve cells are damaged or missing, electrical signals aren’t transmitted as efficiently, and hearing loss occurs. Higher pitched tones may become muffled to you. It may become difficult for you to pick out words against background noise.

Ear infection and abnormal bone growths or tumors – In the outer or middle ear, any of these can cause hearing loss.

Ruptured eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation)- Loud blasts of noise, sudden changes in pressure, infection, or even poking your eardrum with an object can cause your eardrum to rupture and affect your hearing.

Risk Factors

Factors that may damage or lead to loss of the hairs and nerve cells in your inner ear include:

Certain Medications

Drugs such as the antibiotic gentamicin, sildenafil (Viagra), and certain chemotherapy drugs, can damage the inner ear. Temporary effects on your hearing — ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss — can occur if you take very high doses of aspirin, other pain relievers, antimalarial drugs, or loop diuretics.

Loud Noise

Exposure to loud sounds can damage the cells of your inner ear. Damage can occur with long-term exposure to loud noises or from a short blast of noise, such as from a gunshot.

Your Genetic Makeup

Your genes may make you more susceptible to ear damage from sound or deterioration from aging.

Occupational Noises

Jobs where loud noise is a regular part of the working environment, such as farming, construction, or factory work, can lead to damage inside your ear.

Recreational Noises

Exposure to explosive noises, such as from firearms and jet engines, can cause immediate, permanent hearing loss. Other recreational activities with dangerously high noise levels include snowmobiling, motorcycling, carpentry, or listening to loud music.

Certain Illnesses

Diseases or illnesses that result in high fever, such as meningitis, may damage the cochlea.

Degeneration Of Inner Hair Cells

This can occur over time.

Comparing Sound Levels

Comparing loudness of common sounds

The chart below lists common sounds and their decibel levels. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) safe noise level is 70 decibels. The louder the noise, the less time it takes to cause permanent hearing damage.

Sound Levels of Common Noises


Noise Source

Safe Range






Normal Conversation



Sound Levels of Dangerous Noises


Noise Source

Risk Range


Heavy City Traffic, School Cafeteria






Chain Saw, Jackhammer, Rock Concert, Symphony




Ambulance Siren, Thunder


Firecracker, Firearms

Maximum Sound Exposure Durations

Below are the maximum noise levels on the job to which you may be exposed without hearing protection, and for how long.

Maximum Job-Noise Exposure Allowed By Law


Duration, Daily

Based on occupational safety & health administration, 2008


8 Hours


6 Hours


4 Hours


3 Hours


2 Hours


1.5 Hours


1 Hour


30 Minutes


15 Minutes or Less


Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your quality of life. To state the obvious, losing your hearing sucks and can be extremely frustrating. Older adults with hearing loss may report feelings of depression. Because hearing loss can make conversation difficult, some people experience feelings of isolation. Hearing loss is also associated with cognitive impairment and decline.

The mechanism of interaction between hearing loss, cognitive impairment, depression, and isolation is being actively studied. Initial research suggests that treating hearing loss can have a positive effect on cognitive performance, especially memory.


The following steps can help you prevent noise-induced hearing loss and avoid worsening of age-related hearing loss:

Protect your ears – Limiting the duration and intensity of your exposure to noise is the best protection. In the workplace, plastic earplugs or glycerin-filled earmuffs can help protect your ears from damaging noise.

Have your hearing tested – Consider regular hearing tests if you work in a noisy environment. If you’ve lost some hearing, you can take steps to prevent further loss.

Avoid recreational risks – Activities such as riding a snowmobile, hunting, using power tools, or listening to rock concerts can damage your hearing over time. Wearing hearing protectors or taking breaks from the noise can protect your ears. Turning down the music volume is helpful too.

Get in touch with us. Injoy your life again.

Injoy creates custom hearing solutions based on the unique needs of our clients. Our team is the best in the business, having helped people across the country find hearing solutions for several years. Improve your hearing and improve your life today by contacting Injoy!