Understanding hearing loss

Hearing loss can be something that happens suddenly if you’re exposed to a loud sound or bang. It can also happen slowly over a long period of time, which is often the case with age-related hearing loss. Understanding hearing loss is an important first step towards doing something about it.

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What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss means you have lost the ability to hear certain sounds. Maybe you can no longer hear high-pitched tones, like the voices of women or children. Or maybe you can’t pick out a single voice if there is a lot of conversation in the background.


Sometimes hearing loss is temporary, like a ringing in your ears after a noisy concert. Most often, it is permanent because the mechanisms that help you hear have been damaged.

Levels of hearing loss

Hearing loss can be divided into four categories depending on the level of hearing loss*: mild, moderate, severe and profound. Watch the video to understand these four levels better. 

* World Health Organization, 2016

hearing loss

You will have trouble hearing and understanding soft speech, speech from a distance or speech against a background of noise.

Moderate hearing loss

You will have difficulty hearing regular speech, even at close distances.

hearing loss

You may only hear very loud speech or loud sounds in the environment, such as a fire truck siren or a door lamming. Most conversational speech is not heard.

Profound hearing loss

You may only perceive loud sounds as vibrations.

Read more about hearing loss

Early signs of hearing loss

One of the most common symptoms of hearing loss is the inability to hear high-pitched tones, such as female voices.

Causes of hearing loss

There are many different causes of hearing loss: noise, side effects of medication, infections or aging.

Hearing loss treatments

Certain types of hearing loss can be medically treated, but other types cannot.


Ringing in the ear can be frustrating but there are management options that can give you some relief. 

Think you may have a hearing loss?

Take the free online hearing test now

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