Improving your hearing

As we age, our hearing tends to get worse. About 60 percent of people older than age 65 have some degree of hearing loss. That number jumps to 90 percent for those over 80. 

Exposure to loud noise and having a family history of hearing problems increase your risk of hearing loss. Taking certain medications and having a personal history of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and thyroid problems may also increase your risk.

At UW Health, our experienced audiologists and ear, nose and throat doctors work together to evaluate and treat hearing loss.

audiologist doing hearing exam to a mature patient using audiometer in special audio room.
Hearing aidsConsidering over-the-counter hearing aids?
UW Health audiologists advise people to get a hearing test before buying OTC hearing aids.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Know the signs of hearing loss, get tested

Typically hearing loss occurs gradually. You might not even realize that you could benefit from help.

The International Hearing Society reports that you could have hearing loss if you: 

  • Have a family history of hearing loss

  • Have been repeatedly exposed to high noise levels

  • Are inclined to believe that "everybody mumbles" or "people don't speak as clearly as they used to"

  • Feel growing nervous tension, irritability or fatigue from the effort to hear

  • Find yourself straining to understand conversations and watching people's faces intently when you are listening

  • Frequently misunderstand or need to have things repeated

  • Increase the television or radio volume to a point that others complain of the loudness

  • Have diabetes, heart, thyroid or circulation problems, reoccurring ear infections, constant ringing in the ears, dizziness or exposure to ototoxic drugs or medications

If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself, it might be beneficial to get your hearing tested. 

Sudden hearing loss can be a sign of a serious medical condition. You should see a doctor right away if you experience sudden hearing loss.

Treatments and research

Helping you hear better is our goal

Your hearing test can tell us what type of hearing loss you have.

Types of hearing loss

We classify hearing loss according to the area of your ear where the loss originates. There are two main types:

Caused by problems in your ear canal, eardrum or middle ear. Sounds may seem muffled, like they would if you covered your hands with your ears. Heredity, congenital anomalies, ear infections and wax buildup may cause conductive hearing loss.

Caused by damage to your cochlea or auditory nerve. The tiny hair cells of the inner ear that transmit sounds to your nerves are usually responsible for a sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss makes it hard to understand speech or to tell the difference between certain speech sounds.


Your treatment depends on the type of hearing loss you have. 

If you have conductive hearing loss, medication or surgery may help correct your condition. Our audiologist will refer you to one of our ear, nose and throat specialists for treatment. If you still have problems hearing after treatment, a hearing aid may be helpful.

Medical or surgical treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is more limited. However, treatment options such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can help.

Meet our team

Ready to help you enjoy better hearing

Experienced audiologists and ear, nose and throat specialists evaluate and treat hearing loss at UW Health. We offer the best in medical and non-medical hearing care. We help you manage hearing loss and work with you on treatment that will be most helpful.

Patient support and services

Resources and information

We offer several services and information sources to help you if you have hearing loss.


We offer audiology clinics for adults and children. Our audiologists aim to prevent, identify, assess and treat hearing disorders in the least invasive way possible.

Information on hearing loss, hearing aids and hearing protection

These resources can help you learn more about hearing loss, hearing aids and how to protect your hearing:


How to find us