Causes of Hearing Loss

There are many potential causes of hearing loss. Understanding them all allows you to take early action so you can minimise your hearing challenges.

Find out what's causing your deafness 

While many point to age and exposure to loud noises as the leading causes of deafness, there are several other issues to look out for:

  • Hereditary, genetic, and congenital hearing conditions
  • Physical injuries that affect your hearing
  • Illness
  • Ototoxic medications

Age-Related Hearing Loss

How growing older causes hearing loss

Presbycusis is the term used to describe the gradual loss of hearing that often occurs in adults as they age. Presbycusis results from the degeneration of the auditory nerve and/or the cochlea, which is a hollow spiral-shaped bone within the inner ear.

Age-related hearing loss typically affects your ability to hear high-pitched noises, such as ringing phones.

The symptoms develop gradually, making it difficult to detect at first.

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Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise can create hearing issues in several ways. Prolonged exposure to loud noise can lead to gradual sensorineural hearing loss. This involves the gradual damaging of the sensory cells in your ears. This constant degradation results in hearing loss that you won’t identify for some years.

Examples of prolonged exposure to loud noise include working in a loud environment or constantly listening to loud music using headphones.

If the hearing loss relates to your work conditions, it’s often labelled “industrial deafness”.

Noise-related hearing loss may also occur due to exposure to an instance of extremely loud noise (generally over 140 dB). This single exposure may cause extensive damage to your sensory cells, leading to hearing issues and symptoms of tinnitus, such as ringing in your ears.

Other Causes of Hearing Loss

Though age and noise-related issues are the most common causes of hearing loss, there are several others to be aware of:

Congenital hearing loss may occur due to both hereditary and non-hereditary issues. For example, a child may develop hearing loss due to complications during childbirth or exposure to a maternal disease while in the uterus.

Several infections and diseases can cause hearing disorders. Meningitis, mumps, measles, and otitis media all have hearing loss as associated effects. Additionally, chronic ear infections and autoimmune diseases can affect hearing.

Physical trauma, such as brain injuries or damage to your ears, can be causes of deafness.

Obstructions in the ear canal, such as impacted ear wax, may make it difficult for you to hear.

The use of certain drugs can impact your hearing. Some medications are ototoxic, which means they damage the ear. Furthermore, the chemicals present in nicotine and alcohol can also cause issues with hearing.

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Causes of Hearing Loss FAQs

Ear drops, when used as directed, are generally safe and do not cause hearing loss. However, some ear drops should be avoided in people with hearing loss or those who are at risk of developing hearing loss. These include certain ear drops that contain ototoxic (toxic to the ear) medications, such as some antibiotics and some anti-fungal medications. The ototoxicity can damage the inner ear and cause hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and balance problems.

It’s important to always follow the instructions and dosage on the label when using ear drops and to consult with your healthcare professional before using any ear drops if you have a history of hearing loss or if you are at risk of developing hearing loss.

If you experience any adverse effects such as hearing loss, ringing in the ears, or balance problems after using ear drops, stop using the ear drops immediately and contact your healthcare professional.

There are many diseases that can cause hearing loss, including:

  • Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis): This is the most common cause of hearing loss and is caused by changes in the inner ear that occur as we age.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss: This is caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise, such as from construction equipment, firearms, or loud music.
  • Ototoxic medications: Certain medications can be toxic to the ear and can cause hearing loss, such as some antibiotics and some anti-cancer drugs.
  • Ear infections: Otitis media (middle ear infection) and otitis externa (swimmer’s ear) can cause hearing loss by damaging the ear drum and middle ear bones.
  • Head or neck injuries: Trauma to the head or neck can cause hearing loss by damaging the inner ear or the nerve pathways that carry sound to the brain.
  • Meniere’s disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and dizziness.
  • Genetic disorders: Some genetic disorders can cause hearing loss, such as Usher syndrome, which is a disorder that affects both hearing and vision.
  • Cardiovascular disease: It is thought some cardiovascular diseases may cause hearing loss by reducing blood flow to the inner ear, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. However, there is no definitive link between the disorders.
  • Tumors: Some tumors can cause hearing loss by pressing on the nerve pathways that carry sound to the brain.

It’s important to note that some of these diseases may cause temporary hearing loss, although most permanent hearing loss. It’s also important to see a professional if you suspect you have hearing loss, as early detection and treatment can help prevent further damage and preserve your hearing.

Hearing loss is a progressive condition that does not occur suddenly.

Although it can occur at any age, persons over the age of 55 years are more likely to experience it.

Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors, including noise exposure, age, and certain medical problems.

Hearing loss may have a huge influence on one’s quality of life, therefore it’s critical to recognize the signs and symptoms.

It generally begins with a loss of hearing in high-pitched noises.

If you experience this, it’s crucial to consult an audiologist so they can rule out any other health concerns and begin monitoring your hearing.

There are several arguments for and against wearing earbuds to prevent hearing loss.

Some say that because the sound waves are not powerful enough, earbuds cannot cause hearing loss.

Others claim that any form of loud noise exposure might cause harm, even if it is just momentary.

Some argue that only specific types of earphones can be harmful, depending on how well they fit in your ears and how well they drown out surrounding sounds.

The fact is that there is no conclusive answer as to whether or not using earphones causes hearing loss.

Is it possible for an ear infection to cause hearing loss?

The simple answer is yes, but the good news is that most occurrences of ear infection-induced hearing loss are transient.

Ear infections are frequent, particularly in young children.

While most occurrences of ear infection-related hearing loss are transient, some might be permanent.

In fact, many people are unaware they have hearing loss until the infection clears and they can suddenly hear again.

However, some instances of hearing loss caused by an ear infection might be permanent, so it’s critical to consult a doctor if you suspect you have one.

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