sudden hearing loss in both ears may be due to damage from a very loud noise, or taking certain medicines that can affect hearing
gradual hearing loss in 1 ear may be due to something inside the ear, such as fluid (glue ear), a bony growth (otosclerosis) or a build-up of skin cells (cholesteatoma)
gradual hearing loss in both ears is usually caused by ageing or exposure to loud noises over many years
This may give you an idea of the reason for hearing loss – but make sure you see a GP to get a proper diagnosis. It might not always be possible to identify an obvious cause.
Hearing loss sometimes gets better on its own, or may be treated with medicine or a simple procedure. For example, earwax can be sucked out, or softened with eardrops.
But other types – such as gradual hearing loss, which often happens as you get older – may be permanent. In these cases, treatment can help make the most of the remaining hearing. This may involve using:
hearing aids – several different types are available on the NHS or privately
implants – devices that are attached to your skull or placed deep inside your ear, if hearing aids are not suitable
different ways of communicating – such as sign language or lip reading
It's not always possible to prevent hearing loss, but there are some simple things you can do to reduce the risk of damaging your hearing.
not having your television, radio or music on too loud
using headphones that block out more outside noise, instead of turning up the volume
wearing ear protection (such as ear defenders) if you work in a noisy environment, such as a garage workshop or a building site; special vented earplugs that allow some noise in are also available for musicians
using ear protection at loud concerts and other events where there are high noise levels
not inserting objects into your or your children's ears – this includes fingers, cotton buds, cotton wool and tissues