Hearing loss affects one in three older adults, and it’s usually the result of aging. But most people tend to ignore the clues that their hearing is not what it used to be. “The symptoms creep up gradually, and they’re often much more apparent to other people than to us,” said Dr. Steven Rauch, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston.

If you think you may have a hearing loss, your primary care doctor or an ENT doctor will do an exam to make sure it isn’t the result of an infection, a tumor or abnormal bone growth. If the cause is earwax buildup, the doctor can remove the blockage. If the doctor believes you have hearing loss, you’ll need to see an audiologist for a hearing test.

Two or more “yes” answers below may indicate a hearing problem:

1. Is it hard to follow conversation when two or more people talk at the same time?

2. Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?

3. Do you have to strain to understand conversation?

4. Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background?

5. Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?

6. Do many people you talk to seem to mumble or not speak clearly?


Hearing loss may indicate you’re a candidate for hearing aids. The devices have come a long way, with significant improvements in miniaturization and circuitry development.

Generally, they are now smaller and barely visible. They are available in many different styles, such as in-the-ear and over-the-ear, and have a wide range of programmable digital and analog features.