Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults in the United States and around the world. It is important to understand and become familiar with the causes leading to this illness in order to protect ourselves from this condition.
There are two types of hearing loss, which are called conductive and sensorineural.
Conductive: Conductive hearing loss results from physical problems with the movement of the sound wave through the ear. Common causes for this type of hearing loss include:
- Obstructed external ear canal – This is one of the most common causes of hearing loss and the easiest to fix. Cerumen (wax) build-up, hematoma (blood collection), or foreign body in the ear canal can block the ear canal and prevent conduction of sound waves.
- Otosclerosis- is a disease involving the middle ear. It affects the movement of the tiny bones in the middle ear. This condition is often surgically treatable
- Perforated tympanic membrane a.k.a. eardrum – Direct trauma such as a finger or cotton swab, middle-ear infections (otitis media), or explosions (blast injury), sudden changes in pressure, can cause your eardrum to rupture and affect your hearing.
Sensorineural: Sensorineural hearing loss is caused from damage to the hair cells or nerves that sense sound waves. Common causes for this type of hearing loss include:
- Acoustic trauma – Prolonged exposure to loud noises causes the hair cells on the cochlea to become less sensitive. Noise-induced hearing loss usually develops gradually and painlessly.
- Head trauma – Head injuries can also damage the structures in the ear and cause a sudden hearing loss. A fracture of the temporal bone can disrupt the nerves of the auditory system Injury to the ear or head.
- Ototoxic drugs – Certain drugs can affect hearing by damaging the nerves involved in hearing. Some examples of these drugs are:
- Aminoglycoside antibiotics (such as streptomycin, neomycin, or kanamycin)
- Salicylates in large quantities (aspirin)
- Loop diuretics (lasix or ethacrynic acid)
- Drugs used in chemotherapy regimens (cisplatin, carboplatin, or nitrogen mustard)
- Vascular diseases (problems with blood vessels) include sickle cell disease, diabetes, leukemia, polycythemia, and diseases in which excessive blood clotting occurs.
- Ménière disease – A disease that affects hearing and balance. The cause of Ménière’s disease is unknown. A person with Ménière’s disease will often have a combination of sensorineural hearing loss, dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and sensitivity to loud sounds. It usually begins between the ages of 30 and 50 and some people report mild symptoms, but for others the symptoms are much worse.
- Acoustic neuroma – A noncancerous tumor in the auditory nerve. Symptoms can include hearing loss or ringing in one ear accompanied by a feeling of fullness. Treatment for acoustic neuroma is medical
- Infections – Some infections are also known for causing hearing loss. Some of them are: Mumps, measles, influenza, Herpes simplex, Herpes zoster, Mononucleosis, Syphilis, and Meningitis
- Presbycusis- In age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), changes in the nerves and cells of the inner ear that occur as you get older cause a gradual but steady hearing loss. The condition affects hearing in both ears over time. Also, speech begins to sound muffled or unclear because the ability to hear high pitch sounds is the first to go.
Hopefully you find this information about hearing loss prevention useful and understand more about the common causes of hearing loss. The hearing doctors of North County Audiology are here to help. If you have any questions about hearing loss, contact us today. North County Audiology is conveniently located in San Diego, California.