5 common hearing loss causes

If you have noticed that you struggle to hear what people are saying over background noise, or need the television volume turned up high, you could have hearing loss. Just over 6% of the world’s population experience severe hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization. Finding out what causes hearing loss in your specific case can go a long way in helping you find the best course of treatment.

6%

Just over 6% of the world’s population experience severe hearing loss, according to the WHO.

What causes hearing loss?

1. Aging

Age-related hearing loss, called presbycusis, is the most common cause of hearing loss. It generally happens gradually and becomes increasingly noticeable around the age of 60. You may feel like you can hear but not able to understand what is being said. You may also find certain sounds particularly annoying or too loud for comfort. You may also experience more episodes of tinnitus or ringing in the ears. For those with this type of hearing loss, it’s often harder to hear high-frequency sounds such as a telephone ringing, birds chirping or the sound of children’s voices. This type of hearing loss is generally permanent and irreversible. However, the good news is that it is treatable.

2. Hereditary

Hereditary factors can be linked to many cases of hearing loss. This type of hearing loss can be sensorineuralconductive or mixed and can be a genetic characteristic that has been passed down from one or both parents. Many cases of hereditary hearing loss are congenital, which means present at birth. However, some can develop gradually over time. There are around 400 known rare and genetic conditions that include hearing loss. As genetic testing becomes increasingly sophisticated it’s likely that more people will be diagnosed with hereditary hearing loss. The severity of this type of hearing loss can vary, even among those with the same genetic condition.

3. Noise-induced

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by frequent and prolonged exposure to loud noise. The culmination of regular exposure to loud every day sounds such as loud music, noisy work environments, construction work or traffic can impact your hearing. This noise damages the inner ear hair cells. Noise-induced hearing loss may be temporary (but is not always the case). However, repeated exposure to loud noise will make it harder for your hearing to recover between times and could eventually become permanent.

4. Illness and medications

Several illnesses and diseases can cause hearing loss, such as:

  • Brain tumors. This includes acoustic neuroma (or vestibular schwannoma) which develops on nerves from the inner ear to the brain
  • Viruses. Such as mumps, meningitis, measles, scarlet fever, and rubella
  • Cholesteatoma. A skin growth that happens in the middle ear behind the eardrum and often associated with chronic ear infections
  • Meniere’s disease. A chronic and incurable inner ear condition linked with increased and fluctuating changes in the amount of fluid in the inner ear, Meniere's disease can affect hearing and balance
  • Otosclerosis. A rare and abnormal growth of the bone in the middle ear
  • Paget’s disease. Chronic inflammation of the bone

There are several drugs linked to hearing loss, known as ototoxic drugs. Generally, you will have to take prolonged and large doses of these types of medications to experience hearing loss. These include:

  • Aminoglycoside antibiotics
  • Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs

5. Head trauma

If you experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you may experience hearing loss. When your head receives a sudden and severe blow, it can lead to a combination of complex and focal lesions in the brain. One of the side effects could be damage to the auditory pathway and the inner ear structures resulting in a temporary or permanent hearing loss. Trauma-related damage can cause sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, central auditory processing problems, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and balance issues.

Hearing loss treatment

Help is available for all types of hearing loss. Identifying what causes hearing loss will help to determine how to treat hearing loss. Hearing health professionals will use a hearing evaluation and diagnostic tests to help determine the cause of your hearing loss and the best course of treatment for you. This may include:

There are many potential causes of hearing loss. A hearing care professional is trained to get to evaluate your hearing, determine what causes the hearing loss and recommend the best course of treatment for you. Even though hearing loss cannot be reversed, there are various treatments available that can help improve your quality of life.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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