Nearly 30 million Americans have impaired hearing. The most common cause of hearing loss in children is otitis media. For the elderly-the largest group affected-excessive noise, drugs, toxins, and heredity are the most frequent contributing factors.
Hearing loss is a medical disorder. In a limited number of patients, it can be surgically corrected; medical devices and rehabilitation can substantially reduce hearing loss in the vast majority of patients who cannot be helped by surgery. The medical specialists who diagnose and treat hearing disorders are called otolaryngologists-head and neck surgeons, or more commonly, "ear, nose and throat doctors."