Loss in the ability to hear or discriminate sounds is a common disability. This flow chart will help direct you if hearing loss is a problem for you or a family member.

SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS SELF-CARE
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1. Have you been exposed to loud noises at work, or have you been shooting guns, driving a truck or listening to loud music for long periods of time? Yes --> Loud noises that result from certain types of work or entertainment may damage the inner ear. This kind of hearing loss is called OCCUPATIONAL. --> Prevent occupational hearing loss by wearing protective ear plugs or earmuffs. Once the hearing loss has occurred it can’t be reversed. If you think you have occupational hearing loss, see your doctor.
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2. Are you experiencing partial hearing loss, along with earache and a feeling of fullness in the ear? Yes --> Earwax blockage, called CERUMINOSIS, can cause hearing loss in one or both ears. --> Use mineral oil, baby oil or an over-the-counter earwax removal kit to soften the wax in your ear. If wax still can’t be removed, see your doctor.
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3. Has your hearing loss occurred gradually as you have aged? Yes --> You may have PRESBYCUSIS, hearing loss related to aging and other factors. --> See your doctor for an ear exam and a hearing test. You may benefit from a hearing aid.
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4. Are you experiencing gradual hearing loss in one ear only? Yes --> You may have an ACOUSTIC NEUROMA, a noncancerous tumor on the hearing nerve. --> See your doctor.
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5. Do you have bouts of dizziness, nausea or vomiting, ringing in one ear and hearing loss in the same ear? Yes --> You may have MENIERE’S DISEASE or a more serious TUMOR on the hearing nerve. --> See your doctor.
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6. Are you taking any medicines? Yes --> Certain medicines can cause hearing problems such as ringing in the ears. --> See your doctor.
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7. Do you have pain, reduced hearing, fever, cold symptoms or a “fluid” sensation in your ear? Yes --> This may be due to a cold, flu, allergies or a more chronic condition, SEROUS OTITIS MEDIA, in which fluid builds up in the middle ear. --> Use cold medicine for 5 to 7 days. If you don’t feel better or if you have a constant fever or severe pain, see your doctor.
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For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.