What If I Already Have Hearing Loss?
Protect your hearing from getting worse and learn ways to help you hear better and adapt to your hearing loss.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that children who have hearing loss receive special education during ages 3 to 21 years. For more information, visit CDC’s Hearing Loss in Children webpage.
Take Steps to Keep It from Getting Worse
There is no medical or surgical treatment for hearing loss caused by noise. Damaged hair cells do not grow back. As much as possible, you should try to protect your hearing. If you do have hearing loss, you should take steps to keep it from getting worse.
- Avoid noisy places whenever possible.
- Use earplugs, protective ear muffs, or noise-canceling headphones when around loud noises.
- Keep the volume down when listening through earbuds or headphones.
- Ask your doctor for a hearing checkup if you suspect you have hearing loss.
If you develop a sudden hearing loss, contact your doctor immediately. Some treatments may help minimize the damage and reduce the severity of the hearing loss.
Many people with hearing loss can still hear some sounds. If you already have a hearing loss, there are ways to help you make the most out of the hearing you have. Read about the methods and devices below that can help.
Things You Can Do to Help Compensate for Your Hearing Loss
- Look at the speaker.
Your brain can pick up a lot of information from visual cues that can supplement what you hear to help you understand the message. Everyone reads lips more than they realize, and facial expressions and body language can provide helpful cues as well.
- Find the best location for listening.
Placing yourself between the speaker and sources of background noise makes it much easier to hear and understand what is being said. Practice finding the best locations for different situations. For example, sit across from your host in a restaurant, or stay in a room apart from the music at a party.
- Choose favorable listening environments whenever possible. The physical characteristics of a room can make it easier or harder to hear. For example, choose restaurants with better lighting or meeting rooms with carpeted floors and acoustic ceiling tiles that reduce the echo (or reverberation) in a room.
- Pay attention to the conversation.
It is easier to understand a conversation context than to understand a statement that has no background to help you know what it is about.
- Alert others to your hearing difficulty.
Speakers can use strategies to help you hear better as well, such as making sure they have your attention before they speak and giving you a clear view of their face.
- Use closed captioning.
Use closed captioning (CC) when you watch TV, movies, and online videos. Closed captioning can enhance your ability to understand the program.
Consider Using a Device to Help You Hear
If you already have a hearing loss, hearing devices can help you make the most out of the hearing you have.
- Hearing Aids
Hearing aids make sounds louder. They can be adjusted to work best for your specific hearing loss. Making sounds louder can make them easier to understand. However, hearing aids may also make background sounds louder. If you have a hearing loss that distorts sounds, a hearing aid will not make sounds clearer.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids
Over-the-counter hearing aids (OTC) are for adults 18 years of age and older who have mild to moderate hearing loss. Adults with mild hearing loss may be able to hear some conversations but have trouble understanding all the words being said. Those with moderate hearing loss usually have trouble understanding speech at a normal conversational level. OTC hearing aids are not appropriate for children, people who have difficulty making medical decisions, and those with severe to profound hearing loss.
Signs that you may have a mild to moderate hearing loss:
- thinking conversations sound muffled
- having a problem understanding speech in background noise, in groups of people, or on the telephone
- turning up the volume of television, or radio so loud others complain
- asking friends or family to repeat themselves often or they complain you have trouble hearing
Seek advice from a hearing health professional if you have sudden hearing changes, ear discharge, excessive wax buildup, experience pain, dizziness, constant ringing or buzzing (tinnitus), a noticeable difference in one ear, or have a heightened sensitivity to sound (hyperacusis).
Important OTC hearing aids features to know. Is there:
- a free trial period;
- a comprehensive return policy;
- a need to purchase batteries or is it rechargeable;
- a need for a smartphone, app, or computer needed to set up and operate it;
- compatibility with your telephone, computer, or auditorium listening systems;
- a control to change volume and pitch for different listening conditions?
Read the warnings label and other information on the box before buying or using the hearing aid. No single OTC hearing device is perfect for everyone. Hearing aids are not like glasses. You may need some time to adjust to listening and sensing sounds in a new way. If an OTC hearing aid has significant problems, file a complaint with a FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator at https://www.fda.gov/safety/report-problem-fda/consumer-complaint-coordinators.
- Assistive Listening Devices
These devices help you hear sounds in specific everyday activities. Telephone amplifiers can make it easier to hear on the phone. A flashing or vibrating alarm clock can help you wake up in the morning. Loop, FM, and infrared systems can transmit sound to some types of earphones and certain hearing aids. They can help you hear television broadcasts, movies, and meetings in public places.
- Cochlear Implants
These devices are for people who have very severe hearing loss. They stimulate the auditory nerve directly. Surgery is required to insert them.
- Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs)
PSAPs allow people with normal hearing to hear better in specific situations. They might be used when hunting or bird-watching, for example, or to better hear a conversation or performance from a distance. PSAPs are not intended to compensate for hearing loss, and they are not individually programmed like hearing aids. However, they can be useful in some circumstances.
For More Information
- CDC: Treatment for Hearing Loss in Children
- FDA: Types of Hearing Aids
- FDA: Products and Devices to Improve Hearing