If you’re having trouble hearing, don’t suffer in silence. There are many different causes of hearing loss, and some can be successfully treated with medicine, surgery, or a hearing aid. The issue could be rooted in your inner ear, your middle ear, your outer ear, or even your auditory nerve. Sometimes hearing loss is genetic and unavoidable, and other times it results from an unfortunate accident or frequent exposure to loud noise. Discuss the causes of hearing loss with your audiologist to determine the source of your problem and explore potential solutions.
There are three main types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. Conductive hearing loss results from an issue in the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear. Sensorineural hearing loss is typically caused by damage to the hair cells of the inner ear, but it can also result from auditory nerve damage. Finally, as you might have guessed, mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural issues.
Hearing loss can worsen gradually or occur very suddenly. Sometimes it affects both ears, and sometimes it only targets one. Whatever the details may be, be sure to consult an audiologist as soon as you notice symptoms of hearing loss.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be hereditary, passed down through generations of a family. Some forms appear at birth, while others aren’t apparent until later in life. For example, otosclerosis, which causes bone in the ear to overgrow and impede hearing, is thought to be a hereditary disorder.
At some point in your life, someone older probably cautioned you not to play your music so loud. You might have shaken your head and turned up the tunes, but in fact, blaring loud music can actually damage the hair cells in the cochlea and cause hearing loss. Exposure to power tools, airplanes, and other loud noises can also harm your ability to hear. The volume and the length of exposure will affect the extent of the damage.
Medications taken for other medical issues can damage the ears and cause diminished hearing, which is often reversible but sometimes (unfortunately) permanent. Aminoglycosides (like gentamicin) and platinum-based chemotherapeutics (like cisplatin) are particularly risky. Other potentially damaging medications include diuretics, aspirin, NSAIDs, and macrolide antibiotics. If you take medications, ask your doctor if they could potentially damage your ears. If the answer is yes, ask if other medications could be used instead. If that is not an option, discuss lowering the dosage to reduce your risk of hearing loss.
Disease, Infections, & Viruses
Many diseases, infections, and viruses can cause hearing loss. Examples include meningitis, mumps, scarlet fever, measles, autoimmune diseases, blood vessel diseases, and ear infections. Ménière’s disease, which affects the inner ear and can also cause vertigo and tinnitus, is a notable example, though its symptoms vary from person to person.
Physical accidents can result in hearing loss when they involve a perforated eardrum, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or skull fracture, amongst other injuries. Abrupt changes in air pressure (like when an airplane descends) can even cause ear damage leading to sensorineural hearing loss. If you experience head trauma and notice a change in your hearing, make an appointment with your doctor straightaway.
Sometimes ears are poorly formed from birth, and if the outer ear, middle ear, and ear canal are not properly shaped, hearing may be difficult. The condition cholesteatoma, which produces abnormal skin growth in the middle ear, is an example of malformation developed after birth. It can damage the delicate bones in the ear and cause significant hearing loss.
Ear Wax & Fluid
An infection can lead to fluid buildup in the middle ear. Typically this isn’t a great cause for concern, because most ear infections are minor and short-lived. However, it is always best to have infections treated ASAP to prevent significant problems in the long term. Amassed ear wax can also cause hearing loss by building up and hardening, blocking off your ears.
Tumors, whether cancerous or benign, can reduce your hearing ability. Examples include vestibular schwannoma (also known as acoustic neuroma), paraganglioma, and meningioma. Other symptoms of a tumor in the ear include facial numbness, weakness, or ringing in the ear.
Finally, hearing often worsens with age due to the structures in our ears becoming less elastic and the minuscule hairs in our ears becoming damaged. Both of these factors prevent the ears from responding to sound waves as well as they once did. Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) is progressive and irreversible.
If you are experiencing hearing loss, please contact the Sound Relief Hearing Center if you live in or around Denver, Colorado. We provide hearing tests, hearing aids, hearing protection, and more. Plus, we can help you discover which of these potential causes of hearing loss is responsible for your condition. To learn more about us, please browse our website, visit our Youtube channel, or give us a call at 720-259-9962. You can also schedule an appointment online to meet with one of our audiologists. We look forward to hearing from you!