Hearing loss is a common problem that can develop with age or is caused by repeated exposure to loud noises.

While hearing loss can occur suddenly, it usually develops gradually over repeated exposure. General signs of hearing loss can include:

  • Difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say
  • Asking people to repeat themselves
  • Listening to music or watching television with the volume turned up high

In general, there are three types of hearing loss. They are conductive, sensorineural or a mixed hearing loss (a combination of both).

  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems in the outer and middle ear, which can prevent sounds getting through to the inner ear. The most common causes of conductive hearing loss can be a build up of wax in the ear canal, perforated ear drum, fluid in the middle ear, or damaged middle ear bones.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the delicate sensory cells or nerve fibres in the inner ear get damaged stopping them from transmitting sound properly. The most common causes are the natural process of aging or excessive exposure to noise. In most cases, this condition is permanent.

Preventing hearing loss

In Australia in 2010-11, 5160 workers claimed compensation for deafness due to long term exposure to noise.

It isn't always possible to prevent hearing loss if you have an underlying condition that can cause you to lose your hearing. However, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of hearing loss from long-term exposure to loud noise. This includes not having music or the TV on at a loud volume at home and using ear-protection at loud music events or in noisy work environments.