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Common Causes of Hearing Loss

Common Causes of Hearing Loss - Hearing, Balance and Speech Center

It’s estimated that almost 40 million Americans over the age of 18 report some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss can happen at any stage in life, from those born with a hearing impairment up to the elderly who may experience age-related hearing loss.

It’s highly likely that even if hearing loss hasn’t affected you directly, you know someone who has been affected. 

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be broken into two primary types: sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. It’s also possible to experience both types of hearing loss at the same time, known as mixed hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This is the most common type of hearing loss. It is caused by damage to your inner ear. The most common causes are the natural aging process, or exposure to loud noise. Using hearing aid devices is the most common treatment for sensorineural hearing loss. 

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is generally caused by a blockage or obstruction in your out or middle ear. This could be the result of a buildup of earwax, fluid or a tumor. The blockage interferes with sound waves getting into the inner ear, resulting in the hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss can often be treated with medicine or surgical intervention. 

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. 

Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be caused by a number of things. The most common causes of hearing loss are: 

The Natural Aging Process

Hearing loss that occurs as a result of the natural aging process is known as presbycusis. Hearing loss is increasingly common as we grow older. 30-35% of adults over 65 have a hearing loss. 40-50% of those over 75 have a hearing loss. Presbycusis is a sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing aids can help improve hearing ability. 

Exposure to Loud Noise

The second most common cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise. Known as noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), it can affect people of all ages. Hearing loss resulting from noise can happen over time, or it can happen instantly. Read more about noise induced hearing loss here

Trauma / Injury

Trauma or injury are another potential cause of hearing loss. Damage to the middle ear, a hole in the eardrum or a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can all cause hearing loss

Disease or Illness

There are a number of diseases or illnesses that can cause hearing loss. One that we have likely all experienced at some point in our lives is a common cold. The build up of fluid resulting from the cold virus can cause blockages in our outer / middle ear. This results in a hearing loss. 

Other diseases and illnesses that can cause hearing loss include: 

  • Ménière's disease
  • Meningitis 
  • Mumps 
  • Cytomegalovirus 
  • Chickenpox. 

Medicine

Any substance that is poisonous to our ears are known as ototoxic. A number of prescription medications are ototoxic. These medications can cause symptoms of hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in some patients.

Hearing loss caused by an ototoxic substance is known as ototoxic hearing loss. Learn more about ototoxic hearing loss here

Genetics

Genetic hearing loss, also known as hereditary hearing loss, happens when hearing loss is passed through your genetic make-up. In some cases, babies are born with an existing hearing impairment. In other cases, babies are born with a predisposition to develop hearing loss later on in life. Learn more about hereditary hearing loss here

At Hearing, Balance & Speech Center, We’re Here to Help You!

Treating a hearing loss will depend on the underlying cause of the hearing loss. The first steps towards better hearing is a hearing assessment. The hearing healthcare specialists at Hearing, Balance & Speech Center are ready to help. If you’d like to book in a hearing assessment, please request an appointment online

Research / Sources

  1. https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52814-Hearing-loss-statistics-at-a-glance
  2. https://www.hearingloss.org/wp-content/uploads/HLAA_HearingLoss_Facts_Statistics.pdf?pdf=FactStats
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51378372_Free_radical_scavengers_vitamins_A_C_and_E_plus_magnesium_reduce_noise_trauma
  4. https://optimalhearing.com/four-key-nutrients-essential-for-maintaining-hearing-health/
  5. https://www.starkey.com/hearing-loss/types-and-causes
  6. https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Causes-of-Hearing-Loss-in-Adults/
  7. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/deafness-a-range-of-causes#:~:text=disease%20%E2%80%93%20certain%20diseases%20can%20cause,and%20exposure%20to%20certain%20chemicals.