By Mayo Clinic News Network

Only a small minority of people with hearing loss seek treatment, but those who do report dramatic improvements in their relationships and quality of life. If you suspect you may have hearing loss, call your doctor. After an initial evaluation, your doctor may refer you to a hearing specialist (audiologist).

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment and to know what to expect from your doctor.

  • List any symptoms you're experiencing, and for how long. Ask your loved ones to help you make the list. Friends and family may have noticed changes that aren't obvious to you, but they may be important for your doctor to know.
  • Write down key medical information, especially related to any problems you've had with your ears. Your doctor will want to know about chronic infections, injury to your ear or previous ear surgery. Also list any medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
  • Summarize your work history, including any jobs, even those in the distant past, that exposed you to high noise levels.
  • Take a family member or friend along. Someone who accompanies you can help you absorb all the information from the doctor.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor. Having a list of questions in advance can help you make the most of your time with your doctor.

For hearing loss, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What are the possible causes of my symptoms or condition?
  • Other than the most likely cause, what else might be causing my symptoms?
  • What tests do you recommend?
  • Should I stop taking any of my current medications?
  • Should I see a specialist?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:

  • How would you describe your symptoms?
  • Did your symptoms come on suddenly?
  • Do you have ringing, roaring or hissing in your ears?
  • Do your symptoms include dizziness or balance problems?
  • Do you have pain in the affected ear?
  • Do you have a history of ear infections, ear trauma or ear surgery?
  • Have you ever worked in a job that exposed you to loud noise, flown airplanes or been in combat in the military?
  • Do you have any close relatives who have been affected by hearing loss?
  • What medications do you take?
  • Does your family complain that you turn up the volume of the television or radio too high?
  • Do you have trouble understanding someone who is talking to you in a low voice?
  • Do you have trouble understanding someone who is speaking to you on the telephone?
  • Do you frequently need to ask others to speak up or repeat themselves during conversation?
  • Do you have trouble hearing someone in a noisy setting, such as a crowded restaurant?
  • Can you follow a conversation in which more than two people are speaking at once?
  • Can you hear a coin hitting the floor?
  • Can you hear a door closing?
  • Can you hear when someone approaches you from behind?
  • How are your hearing problems affecting your life, including your close relationships?
  • Would you be willing to use a hearing aid if needed?