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Ask the Expert

Listen back to our colleague Enda Dooley discussing all things hearing related on Newstalk with Pat Kenny.

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss is defined as a certain level of reduced hearing in one or both ears. According to the Irish Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists, permanent acquired hearing loss affects one in 12 of the adult population in Ireland. This rises to 50% in the over 70-age group.

People can experience bilateral or unilateral hearing loss. Unilateral hearing loss, also known as single sided deafness, is the partial or complete loss of hearing in one ear. This type of hearing loss can be quite common and can be triggered by the following causes:

  • It can be inherited (as other types of genetic hearing loss)
  • It can occur as a result of a trauma or injury to the head
  • An acoustic neuroma often results in a unilateral hearing loss
  • If can be caused by an infection

Bilateral hearing loss is where hearing loss occurs in both ears. The level of hearing loss can either be symmetrical where the same degree of hearing loss occurs in both ears or asymmetrical where sounds are experienced differently in both ears.

There are also three types of hearing loss which are listed below.


Types of hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss
The most common type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss. It can be caused by damage to tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear or damage to the auditory nerve. Often, this type of hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids.

Conductive hearing loss
This type of hearing loss comes from a mechanical problem in the middle or outer part of the ear. Conductive hearing loss can also be caused by an obstruction of some sort in the canal of the ear, such as earwax preventing sound from getting to the ear drum. It can be treated using hearing aids or other medical options.

Mixed hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss is when both aspects of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss are present.

Types of hearing loss

Degrees of hearing loss

The degree of hearing loss refers to the severity of the loss and is generally categorised as either mild, moderate, severe, or profound

It can be measured in decibels (dB), referring to how loud sounds need to be for you to hear them.

Illustration shows ear with normal hearing loss ear waves
Normal hearing (≤25 dB)
No perceived hearing loss symptoms.
Illustration shows ear with mild hearing loss ear waves
Mild hearing loss (26-40 dB)
Soft speech is difficult to hear, especially in noisy environments.
Illustration shows ear with moderate hearing loss ear waves
Moderate hearing loss (41-60 dB)
Following a conversation in noisy environments or group settings is problematic.
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Severe hearing loss (61-80 dB)
People have to speak loudly for you to hear them.
Illustration shows ear with profound hearing loss ear waves
Profound hearing loss (≥81 dB)
Hearing is challenging in most environments.
Image shows woman during hearing test

Test yourself: Should I get a hearing test?

Answer the 4 questions below to see if you should consider getting a hearing test.

Question 1 – Around the table
Do you have trouble following conversations, when there are 4 or more people present?
Have you received advice from your family or friends to get your hearing tested?
Do you ever struggle to understand what others are saying because you cannot hear properly?
Do you find yourself turning up the TV or radio even when the volume is loud enough for others?

Your Result:

A hearing test is relevant for you

Your answers indicate that you experience symptoms of hearing loss. We strongly recommend booking a hearing test in one of our clinics.

The result is an indication. An in-person hearing test can determine if you have a hearing loss.

Book your free hearing test:

Your Result:

A hearing test seems relevant for you

Your answers indicate that you experience some symptoms of hearing loss. We recommend booking a hearing test in one of our clinics.

The result is an indication. An in-person hearing test can determine if you have a hearing loss.

Book your free hearing test:

Your Result:

It cannot be determined here if a hearing test is relevant for you

Your answers do not indicate that you experience symptoms of hearing loss. However, if you experience trouble hearing, we recommend booking a hearing test in one of our clinics.

The result is an indication. An in-person hearing test can determine if you have a hearing loss.

Book your free hearing test:

Step 1 of 3

What causes hearing loss?

Understanding the source of your hearing issues gives our professionals insight into your needs, so we can advise you with the best options for your specific treatment. That's why we encourage you to speak with our experts as soon as you notice any hearing difficulties.

Common causes of hearing loss include:

  • Ageing
  • Excessive noise exposure
  • Injury
  • Viral infections (such as measles or mumps)
  • Wax build-up
  • Ototoxic drugs (medications that damage hearing)
  • Genetics

Causes of hearing loss

Tip from an audiologist

If you are looking for treatment for hearing impairment, we advice you to begin the process as soon as possible.

It takes time for patients to come to terms with their diagnosis, and hearing loss is stigmatised. As an audiologist, I am all too aware of the impact of hearing loss on a patients social, psychological, and mental wellbeing; however, the patient will ultimately decide what is best for them.

Often, patients take time to process their diagnosis, make an informed decision and return for treatment. It thrills me to know when they are taking control of their hearing health. 



Book a FREE hearing test

6 signs and symptoms of hearing loss

The symptoms of hearing loss depend on the type, degree and cause of hearing loss.

If you recognise any of the below symptoms, we recommend getting a free hearing test at a hearing clinic near you.

Group people talking with coffee
1. Difficulty following conversations
Difficulty following conversations involving more than two people or when there’s background noise.
man on the phone
2. Phone conversations are unclear
You have trouble following phone conversations in both quiet and noisy surroundings.
Image shows woman holds hand by her ear
3. People seem to be mumbling
You often ask people to repeat themselves. Sounds seem unclear or people sound like they are mumbling.
Image shows woman struggling to locate sound
4. Difficulty locating sounds
You have difficulty locating where sounds are coming from.
woman in pain holding head
5. Signs of tinnitus
You experience ringing or buzzing sounds in your ears (called tinnitus).
Image shows couple watching tv
6. Turning up the TV too loud
Your friends and family say you turn the television up too loud.

Do you recognise any of the above signs of hearing loss?

If you or someone you know can relate to any of the signs of hearing loss listed above, then it may be an indication of hearing impairment, and you should get your hearing tested.

Get a free hearing test

Facts about hearing loss

Hearing loss is more common than you might think.

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Hearing loss is the 3rd most common health condition among adults
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About 1 in 5 adults has hearing loss
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On average, people with hearing loss wait 7-10 years before seeking treatment
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80% of people aged 55-74 who can benefit from hearing aids do not use them
Audiologist welcoming customer

Treating hearing loss

Hearing loss treatments include: earwax removal, hearing aids, surgery, cochlear implants or bone anchored hearing solutions.

The best solution for your hearing loss will depend on:

  • Type of hearing loss
  • Degree of hearing loss
  • Cause of hearing loss
  • Your budget
  • Lifestyle, personal interests, cosmetic preferences and communication needs

Hearing loss treatment Online hearing test

5 steps to improving your hearing

ear icon
1. Hearing loss or maybe it's just earwax?
Book earwax removal
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2. Schedule your FREE hearing test in a clinic near you.
Find your clinic
90 day calendar
Select and test a hearing aid
3. Select a pair of hearing aids with a 90-day money back guarantee.
Book a hearing test
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4. Learn about 2 FREE hearing aids with PRSI grant.
PRSI grant
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5. Hear well and live well. Receive FREE, unlimited aftercare.
Aftercare service

What happens at a hearing test?

You might be wondering what takes place at a hearing assessment, such as how your provider will check for hearing loss and what you can expect to learn. Our brief guide will provide you with a step-by-step overview so that you can be prepared for your appointment.

Book a FREE hearing test






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As an essential service, we remain open for all your hearing healthcare needs in the safest hearing healthcare clinics in Ireland.


Watch and see how quick, safe & easy it is to have a free hearing test


A woman is on her way to the clinic



On the day of your test, a friend or family member is recommended to come along with you


The woman walks into the clinic



You will be greeted in the reception by one of our friendly clinic coordinators, who will ask you to sanitise your hands and sign in


Clinic coordination welcomes the customer and points at the sanitiser



Woman stands at the reception and fills out a couple of questions.


You will also be asked the following questions:


  • Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 7 days?
  • Are you waiting for a COVID-19 test or the results?
  • Do you have any of the following symptoms:


New, continuous cough, high temperature or fever, loss of, or change in sense of smell or taste?


  • Do you live with someone who has either tested positive for COVID-19 or had symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days?



You will then meet your audiologist, who will bring you through to our consultation room


Audiologist is welcoming the customer.



To complete your free hearing assessment. Your audiologist will begin by asking you about your medical history in order to find out more about your hearing concerns and lifestyle factors.


Audiologist talks with the customer and starts the physical ear exam, and hearing test


Your audiologist will also conduct a physical ear exam of your ears


Zooms in on the results of the hearing test.



Your audiologist will make a recommendation based on these results.


Audiologist finishes the consultation.



If there is hearing loss detected, we will assist you in choosing the best hearing aid solution to suit your needs


The customer is followed out of the clinic by the audiologist.



Hidden Hearing


Book a FREE hearing test today

Call 1800 370 000 or email infor@hiddenhearing.ie


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How to prevent hearing loss

While there is no cure for loss of hearing, there are steps you can take in preventing hearing loss and reducing your chances of developing hearing loss over the course of your lifetime.

Learn more about healthy hearing practices and protection solutions that can help keep hearing loss at bay.

FAQ about hearing loss

Caroline Hogan, Hearing Aid Audiologist
I have been working with Hidden Hearing for many years now. We provide a professional, expert service, treating patients with dignity and respect. We earn our patients trust and enjoy lifelong relationships, providing free aftercare services for hearing aid users. I simply love what I do every day. There is such a great pleasure in helping people to hear better.  I have been an audiologist for 11 years and have never once regretted my decision to train as an audiologist.


1. Kochkin, Sergei (2009) ”MarkeTrak VIII: 25-Year Trends in the Hearing Health Market” The Hearing Review, vol. 16, no. 11.
2. McCormack, A. & Fortnum, H. Why do people fitted with hearing aids not wear them? Int J Audiol. 2013 May; 52(5): 360–368.
3. Chisolm, T. H., Johnson, C. E., Danhauer, J. L., Portz, L. J. P., Abrams, H. B., Lesner, S., … Newman, C. W. (2007). A systematic review of health-related quality of life and hearing aids: Final report of the American Academy of Audiology Task Force on the Health-Related Quality of Life Benefits of Amplification in Adults. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 18(2), 151-183
4. Masterson EA, Bushnell PT, Themann CL, Morata TC. Hearing Impairment Among Noise-Exposed Workers — United States, 2003–2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:389–394. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6515a2
5. Haile et al. Hearing loss prevalence and years lived with disability, 1990–2019: findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet. 2021 March. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736