Causes of Hearing Loss

There are many different causes of hearing loss, from aging to genetic conditions to noise exposure. Identifying the cause is an important step in finding the right treatment.

Hearing loss is defined as one of three types:

Conductive

involves outer or middle ear

Sensorineural

involves inner ear

Mixed

combination of the two

Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises both contribute to hearing loss. Other factors, such as excessive earwax, can temporarily reduce how well your ears conduct sounds.

Otosclerosis

This is a middle ear disease. It makes it harder for the tiny bones in the middle ear to move. It causes a conductive hearing loss. This condition is often treated with surgery.

Meniere’s disease

This is an inner ear problem. The cause of Meniere’s disease is not known. It usually starts in people between 30 and 50 years old. A person with this disease will often have sensorineural hearing loss. Dizziness and ringing in the ear are common. Sensitivity to loud sounds may also happen. The hearing loss comes and goes, but over time some loss becomes permanent.

Autoimmune inner ear disease

An autoimmune disorder is one where your body attacks itself. This type of hearing loss happens fast. You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you suddenly lose your hearing. Medical treatment can help keep hearing loss to a minimum.

Ototoxic medications

There are some medicines that can cause hearing loss. You should talk with your doctor about the medicines you take. Some medicines that may impact hearing include the following:

1. Aminoglycoside antibiotics, such as streptomycin, neomycin, or kanamycin

2. Loop diuretics, like Lasix or ethacrynic acid

3. Large amounts of aspirin

4. Some chemotherapy drugs

Very loud noise

Loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss is painless and usually happens over time. Hearing an extremely loud sound, like an explosion, can cause a sudden hearing loss.

Acoustic neuroma

This is an example of a tumor that causes hearing loss. It can also cause ringing in your ear and feeling like your ears are full. You need medical treatment for an acoustic neuroma.

Presbycusis

This is a sensorineural hearing loss that happens as you get older. Speech may start to sound muffled or unclear. You may have to ask people to repeat themselves or turn the TV louder to hear it.

Physical head injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI), hole in the eardrum, and damage to the middle ear can cause hearing loss.

You can't reverse most types of hearing loss. However, you and your doctor or a hearing specialist can take steps to improve what you hear.

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