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    Mayo Clinic Minute: What is hearing loss?

About 25 percent of people in the U.S. between 55 and 64 have some degree of hearing loss. For those older than 65, the number of people with some hearing loss is almost 1 in 2.

Dr. Matthew Carlson, a Mayo Clinic ear, nose and throat surgeon, says most people with hearing loss will benefit from treatment and technology. In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Carlson explains what's going on in the ear when hearing loss happens.

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Hearing loss is very common.

"There are a lot of different types of hearing loss," says Dr. Carlson. "Temporary hearing loss can happen when your ears are plugged with wax or fluid behind the ear drum, for example. Nerve-related hearing loss is usually permanent."

"We call it sensorineural hearing loss," Dr. Carlson says. "And there are thousands of different causes of sensorineural hearing loss. The most common is probably just being over the age of 50 or having a history of loud noise exposure."

Dr. Carlson says just about all types of sensorineural hearing loss have to do with the loss of the function of hair cells in your inner ear.

"The hair cells, which take the mechanical sound and turn it into electrical sound become fewer or don't function well," says Dr. Carlson.

Hearing aids help to increase volume. For people with profound hearing loss, cochlear implants work by bypassing the hair cells and sending signals directly to the hearing nerve and brain. Once health care professionals figure out your type of hearing loss, they can tailor treatment that's best for you.