Feature Article

The GP’s essential guide to hearing loss

Marcus D Atlas, David SG Lowinger



The most common causes of hearing loss are benign and readily amenable to treatment, but hearing loss can be a symptom of neoplasia, destructive middle ear disease or progressive otological damage. With a systematic approach, the family doctor can usually determine the most likely aetiology.

Key Points

  • Hearing loss affects a child’s speech development and learning, and an adult’s ability to work and interact socially.
  • There are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. With a systematic approach, the GP can usually determine the type of hearing loss and the most likely cause.
  • The cause of conductive hearing loss may best be determined by working inward from the outer ear canal. Unilateral sensorineural hearing loss requires investigation.
  • Conductive hearing loss can usually be treated successfully with surgery, and technological advances in hearing aids have improved the outlook for sensorineural hearing loss.
  • The earlier a profound sensorineural hearing loss is detected in children, the greater the success of cochlear implantation in achieving hearing and speech development.