Most cases of hearing loss in adults stem from damage to the inner ear, where tiny hair cells turn sound vibrations into impulses that nerve cells then carry to the brain. The most common causes of that damage are aging and chronic exposure to loud noises–think rock concerts, sports events, and lawn mowers.
A family history of severe hearing loss could signal that you’re at increased risk. So does being male.
A second, easier-to-treat type of hearing loss originates in the middle or outer ear and stems from reversible problems such as impacted earwax fluid buildup from an infection, or the use of certain medications. Older adults often have a mix of both types of loss.

If you’re experiencing signs of hearing loss (or have been told as much by a concerned family member), first see a board-certified otolaryngologist–an ear, nose, and throat physician who will check for impacted earwax and other reversible causes. If none are found, the doctor will probably refer you to an audiologist, a professional who specializes in testing and treating hearing problems.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health March 2014