Common Causes of Hearing Loss:

There are a number of common causes of hearing loss, the causes are often unique to the individual. Most causes can be narrowed down to the following eight causes:

1. Infection

Ear infections are a common cause of conductive hearing loss as they frequently cause a blockage within the ear. They can affect the outer, middle and inner ear.

The most common outer ear infection is ‘Swimmer’s Ear’, which is aptly named because it is generally picked up through water. It can cause painful inflammation of the ear canal, making it harder for soundwaves to reach the inner ear. A middle ear blockage is generally caused by fluid building up behind the eardrum in the middle ear. Fluid can prevent both the eardrum and ossicles from vibrating freely, so sound can become muffled. This type of ear infection is particularly common in children.

Meningitis, measles, mumps and diabetes are all known to cause inner ear or sensorineural hearing loss.

Hearing loss caused by ear infection is generally temporary and can be treated with antibiotics. In some cases, the fluid buildup can exert such pressure on the eardrum that it causes it to rupture. This would require additional treatment.

2. Ménière’s Disease

Ménière’s disease is an inner ear disorder which can cause unpredictable attacks of tinnitus (constant noise in the ear) and vertigo (severe dizziness), as well as hearing loss. People who experience Ménière’s disease can often be sensitive to loud sounds and struggle with their balance. Usually only one ear is affected but the hearing loss becomes more frequent and severe over time.

3. Age

It is not uncommon for the quality of our hearing to decrease over time. This is because the sensitive hair cells within the inner ear become damaged as they’re exposed to various infections and loud noises. Unfortunately, these hair cells can’t grow back or be repaired, which is why hearing loss can be permanent. These hair cells are so important because they help to convert the incoming sound waves into nerve signals that the brain can then interpret and understand.

Hearing loss due to ageing is generally quite gradual and subtle. You may not even notice that you’ve started to lose your hearing. Typically you will first struggle to hear higher frequency sounds like a whistle or a children’s voice. Noisy environments can make hearing and following a conversation particularly hard.

With age-related hearing loss, both ears are typically affected. Also, your genes can increase your chances of experiencing age-related hearing.

4. Otosclerosis

Otosclerosis is a type of bone growth that can cause hearing loss, commonly in young adults. The bones affected are known as the ossicles. Tiny in size, these three bones are located in the middle section of the ear just behind the eardrum. When a sound wave passes through the eardrum the bones vibrate and transfer the sound to the inner ear. There it can be converted by the snail-like cochlea (containing hair cells and nerves) into signals that the brain can understand.

Someone who has otosclerosis can develop hearing loss because the ossicles grow too large or fuse together. This reduces their ability to vibrate and so the sound isn’t transferred to the inner ear correctly. Otosclerosis mainly affects young adults because it is only at that age that the bone has had enough time to grow and begin to have a negative impact.

The signs of otosclerosis are quite different from other types of hearing loss. With otosclerosis, it is lower frequency sounds that tend to be affected first. Your own voice can sound unusually loud and background noise can actually help to make sounds clearer.

5. Noise Exposure

One of the most obvious hearing loss causes, damage from noise exposure can occur over a long period of time or in one traumatic incident. Loud noise is detrimental to the delicate hair cells in the inner ear (cochlea) and once damaged, these hairs cannot be repaired. That means that the cochlea struggles to accurately pass the sound onto the brain. Long-term damage is very gradual and hard to spot. To help prevent this type of hearing loss, we would encourage you to wear ear protection whenever you’re in a noisy environment.

6. Earwax

Excessive amounts of earwax (cerumen) can cause hearing loss as the earwax prevents soundwaves from reaching the inner ear. We all need some earwax as it is vital for keeping our inner ears free of dirt and dust. The natural movement of your jaw is normally enough to keep the earwax moving along the ear canal but sometimes it can caught, buildup and harden. This is when it becomes a blockage and a problem for your hearing.

7. Trauma

Blunt force trauma to the head will always carry a risk of hearing loss. For example, the impact could dislodge or loosen the ossicles and so prevent them from vibrating correctly. Physical injury could also cause a perforated eardrum, leading to temporary hearing loss.

8. Ototoxic Medication

For some drugs hearing loss is a known side effect given their affect on the sensitive hair cells. These include a number of both over the counter and prescription drugs: Antibiotics, Chemotherapy drugs, Pain relievers.
In the vast majority of cases, the benefits of using such medication will far outweigh the risks. However, if you have any concerns about your own medication, you should speak to your doctor.

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