The most common causes of hearing loss

In this post, we're going to talk about the most widespread causes of hearing loss, the different kinds of hearing loss, and what you can do about them.

The most common causes of hearing loss

by Dr. Kevin Ivory

Hearing loss is a common condition that affects one in eight Americans who are over the age of 12. There are several forms of hearing loss, however, and not all are limited to older people. In this post, we're going to talk about the most widespread causes of hearing loss, the different kinds of hearing loss, and what you can do about them.

Types of hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss

Occurring in either the outer or middle ear, conductive hearing loss is triggered by conditions that prevent sound from entering the inner ear. People experiencing this condition may find voices and sounds fainter than usual. Fortunately, many causes of conductive hearing loss can be medically or surgically treated.


Sensorineural hearing loss

This form of hearing loss is due to damaged hair cells in the cochlea. These are the cells that pickup sounds and convert them into sound signals that the brain interprets.

Unfortunately, this kind of hearing loss cannot be surgically corrected. It is also the most common type we see.


Signs of hearing loss

Many who have sensorineural hearing loss are aware of their condition until someone else points it out. Even then, denial is all too normal of a response. Unlike eyesight, where we know we 're having trouble seeing when the world is blurred or fuzzy, hearing loss is a much more gradual and insidious process. Hearing loss only comes into plain view once the damage has already been done.

The first sign that something is not right can come when we're out in a busy restaurant, and we can't understand our friend's words in a noisy atmosphere. We might also have trouble talking on the phone or when communicating with somebody who is in another room.


Most common causes of hearing loss

Here are some of the most common causes of hearing loss:

#1: Age-related hearing loss (Presbycusis)

The normal aging cycle often triggers hearing loss. Just as your joints get a little stiffer with age or don't have as much energy as you used to, so do your ears.

Age-related hearing loss is a form of sensorineural hearing loss that affects the inner ear. The prolonged use of our hearing over most of a lifetime means the cells in the inner ear get worn out. Sounds may appear muffled or distorted, and specific frequencies might not be heard at all.

Age-related hearing loss usually starts when you're in your 50's and progressively worsens over time. In the beginning, it may not be obvious, but it will be difficult to overlook overtime.

Unfortunately, there is no way to protect yourself from Presbycusis, but avoiding loud sounds and maintaining a healthy lifestyle could help preserve your hearing into old age.


#2: Noise-induced hearing loss

Noise is one of America's leading causes of hearing loss, and health statistics suggest that the incidence of hearing loss is occurring at progressively younger ages with each year.

Loud noises physically attack the delicate cells of the inner ear, but Noise-induced hearing loss occurs gradually. You might experience a ringing in the ears or muffled hearing after a bout of exposure to loud noise. This is called a "temporary shift in threshold" and usually returns to normal after a few hours.

However, this temporary shift in hearing may become permanent with repeated exposure. Once permanent hearing damage has occurred, regular hearing can't be restored.


#3: Injuries and Medical Conditions

There are many kinds of injuries which may lead to hearing loss, but here are the more common:

●      Middle ear disease: This is a middle ear infection that can damage the eardrum and cause fluid accumulation.

●      Meniere's disease: This condition usually induces dizziness, loss of hearing, ringing in the ears(tinnitus), and a fullness or stuffiness sensation in one or both ears. Those with Ménière 's disease experience an excess fluid accumulation within the inner ear, which is often the cause of the hearing loss.

●      Trauma: Hearing loss may be the product of a head injury, which may do physical damage to the delicate structures of the inner ear.


#4: Medicines

Some medications can harm the ear, resulting in loss of hearing, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or balance.

Those medications are considered ototoxic. Over 200 recognized potentially ototoxic drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter) are on the market, including drugs for treating severe diseases, cancer, and heart disease.

Sometimes problems of hearing and balance caused by these medicines can be reversed if the medication stops being used, but sometimes the damage is permanent.


#5: Genetics

Genetic hearing loss can be caused either by hereditary or non-inherited causes. Hearing loss due to genetic abnormalities that occur at birth can also evolve later in life.

If you think you may have a hearing loss from one of the causes above, help is at hand. We can test your hearing, diagnose the condition and provide hearing solutions to help you live your best life. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Kevin H. Ivory
Audiologist & University Instructor
Read full bio

Dr. Kevin Ivory, Au.D., CCC-A received his Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then went on to earn his Doctor of Audiology degree from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, one of the top 10 audiology residential programs in the country.

Ready to Improve Your Quality of Life?

Book an appointment with Dr. Kevin Ivory to start hearing better today.

top rated audiologist
4.9 out of 5 stars on Google
See Our Reviews