Main types of hearing impairment

Hearing Loss

Simply means not hearing things you used to, often particular frequencies, especially high frequencies. Hearing loss can occur in one or both ears.  It can develop very quickly, usually after an infection or after exposure to extremely loud noise, or very gradually, almost imperceptibly. Here is a helpful list of indicators of hearing loss.

Of particular concern is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Often exposure to loud sounds including music can result in dulled hearing and/or a ringing in the ears. This is called temporary threshold shift and hearing will often recover after 24 – 48 hours. However, this is a warning that whatever you were doing was too loud and you may have been risking hearing loss. Evidence shows that the temporary effect can become permanent with repeated exposure. We have more information about safe noise levels and exposure times here.

Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis): Most people begin to lose a small amount of their hearing from around 40 years of age. This hearing loss increases as you get older. By the age of 80, most people have significant hearing problems


The word 'tinnitus' comes from the Latin word for 'ringing' and is the perception of sound in the absence of any corresponding external sound. This noise may be heard in one ear, in both ears or in the middle of the head or it may be difficult to pinpoint its exact location. The noise may be low, medium or high‑pitched. There may be a single noise or two or more components. The noise may be continuous or it may come and go. Find out more about tinnitus.


Refers to being acutely sensitive to sounds, usually louder sounds although some people experience problems with particular frequencies. Sounds can actually be experienced as physical pain


Occurs when the two ears have different frequency responses so that different pitches are heard in each ear, often with a dissonance.  The difficulty and distress this can cause a musician is obvious.