Hearing loss

Hearing loss can be due to middle ear disease or inner ear disease. Your audiogram (hearing test) shows which type of hearing loss you have. Middle ear hearing loss is called conductive hearing loss. Inner ear hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss.

Hearing loss in children

It’s never too early to test hearing

All children in Victoria have a newborn hearing screen within a few days of being born. This screen aims to pick up the 1:1000 children who are born with severe hearing loss. These children need to have hearing aids or cochlear implant by 6-9 months of age, to to enable them to enjoy the same learning opportunities and quality of life as other children. For more information see Victorian infant hearing screening programme

Hearing can be tested at any age. If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, book a hearing test. Parents, teachers, doctors and nurses can’t guess what a children’s hearing level is; sometimes we think hearing is down and it’s normal and other times we think hearing is normal and the child is really deaf. The only way to know is to do a test. It’s simple and easy for your and your child to have a hearing test.

Middle ear hearing loss

The commonest type of hearing loss in children is called conductive hearing loss. This is due to middle ear disease. Middle ear disease is often treatable and middle ear hearing loss usually improves with treatment. For more information see

Inner ear hearing loss

Inner ear hearing loss is also called sensorineural hearing loss.  Hearing loss can affect one or both ears. Hearing aids work well for children with mild to moderate hearing loss. Children with severe to profound hearing loss may need a cochlear implant if hearing aids aren’t helpful enough.

Sensorineural hearing loss can start before birth (this is called congenital hearing loss) or after birth (this is called acquired hearing loss).

Children can develop hearing loss due to:

  • Genetic hearing loss,
  • Viral infections in utero (before birth) or after birth,
  • Prematurity and jaundice,
  • Meningitis,
  • Head injury,
  • Noise damage,
  • Chemotherapy,
  • Gentamicin, an antibiotic used to treat life threatening infections.

If your child has been diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss, you can use this checklist to keep track of how to help your child get the best out of life.

Another useful resource is VicDeaf website, resources and information sheets.

Hearing loss in adults

Middle ear hearing loss

Middle ear hearing loss is less common in adults. It may be improved with surgery. Causes include

Inner ear hearing loss

Inner ear hearing loss is also called sensorineural hearing loss. Most types of inner ear hearing loss aren’t reversible. Inner ear hearing loss can happen in one ear or both ears. Tinnitus is often a side effect of inner ear hearing loss.

Common causes for inner ear hearing loss are:

  • Hearing naturally changes with age. Some people or families tend to lose hearing early than other people.
  • Noise damage. Protect your ears from loud noise by using ear plugs or ear muffs when you are mowing, using power tools, guns or playing loud music.
  • Genetic causes
  • Meniere’s disease

Less common causes include head injury, meningitis, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, auto-immune inner ear disease and acoustic neuroma.

Most types of inner ear hearing loss are symmetrical. This means hearing is the same in each ear. If your hearing loss is asymmetrical or worse in one ear, your surgeon may recommend an MRI to look for acoustic neuroma. Before you have an MRI, it can be helpful to watch a video of an MRI including the noises you will hearing during the MRI.

Useful links