What Causes Hearing Loss?

There are many conditions that can cause hearing loss. There are 3 categories of hearing loss that can contribute to your hearing problems:

  • Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot reach the inner ear due to an obstruction, such as a buildup of fluid or earwax. This type of hearing loss is usually treated.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the structure of the inner ear or the nerves that carry information from the ears to the brain are damaged. Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible. Although many types of sensorineural hearing loss are permanent, there are conditions in which sensorineural hearing loss improves on its own.
  • Mixed hearing loss occurs with a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Age-related hearing loss and noise-related hearing loss are common in the United States. Here's more information on these conditions, as well as other causes of hearing loss.

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Conductive hearing loss

  • Fluid entering the ear can occur with or without an active ear infection. It is common in children and is difficult to diagnose as it may not cause any symptoms. A person who has fluid in the ear may feel that their ears are blocked. Listening with fluid in your ears is like trying to listen with your head underwater. This type of hearing loss is reversible and is usually treated by inserting synthetic ear tubes that open the ear canal and allow fluid to drain.
  • Ear infections , especially when accompanied by fluid entering the ear, can cause hearing loss. It is usually temporary. However, frequent infections can lead to the development of scar tissue, which sometimes causes hearing loss that may or may not be reversed.
  • Barotrauma occurs when there are sudden changes in atmospheric pressure (pressure in the environment), for example, when taking off in an airplane or diving. If it rises or falls too fast, the air in your middle ear will not be able to adjust to atmospheric pressure and your eardrum may rupture.
  • A blockage in the earwax can reduce hearing levels due to a blockage in the ear canal. Removing earwax will restore your hearing. The wax should be removed by a doctor, not with a cotton swab, as you don't want to push the wax further into your ear and make the blockage worse.

Sensorineural hearing loss

  • Noise-induced hearing loss is related to damage to the inner ear resulting from damage caused by loud sound. It can be a gradual process caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises (usually 80 decibels or more), or it can occur suddenly when very loud sounds, such as gunshots, rupture the eardrum . If hearing loss occurs gradually, it is usually irreversible.
  • Aging (presbycusis) occurs with age and is a common condition. How much you lose, and how soon you lose it, appear to be inherited. You may be surprised that, for most of us, hearing begins to deteriorate after age 20. It is rare to lose your hearing completely due to this type of hearing loss, although your hearing loss is permanent. The good news is that there are treatments available that can dramatically improve your quality of life.
  • Hearing loss can be caused by infectious diseases , such as measles , mumps , meningitis, and scarlet fever . Pregnant women with infections such as rubella or herpes can pass them on to the fetus and give birth to babies who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Injuries , especially head injuries, can cause hearing loss. Depending on the circumstances, this may or may not be treated.
  • Medications , including some antibiotics, can cause hearing loss. These drugs are called ototoxic drugs. If you start taking a new medicine and suddenly experience changes in your hearing, tell your doctor right away. Hearing loss caused by ototoxic drugs can be temporary or permanent. Also, if you have molds or a ruptured eardrum and inject ear drops (such as earwax-dissolving drops) or substances used to protect a swimmer's ear (such as vinegar, rubbing alcohol, or baby oil), it can damage the inner ear. . . …

Congenital hearing loss

Congenital hearing loss occurs if you were born totally or partially deaf. There are literally hundreds of conditions (over 400) that can cause this, such as being born without some or all of the three bones in the ear that are essential for hearing. Congenital hearing loss is also associated with certain syndromes, such as Down syndrome, Usher syndrome, Treacher Collins syndrome, and microtia. It can be purely genetic and can also be caused by the premature birth of the baby (before the ear structures are fully formed). Complications during pregnancy, including toxicosis and some infections, can also lead to congenital hearing loss.

Depending on the situation, congenital hearing loss may or may not be permanent. Although many of the birth defects that cause this type of deafness cannot be reversed, cochlear implants allow many children with congenital hearing loss to hear again.

It should also be noted that babies can be born with fluid in their ears. It is not actually considered congenital hearing loss. If your child fails his first hearing test because of fluid in his ears, his hearing will return to normal as soon as the fluid runs out.

Other causes of hearing loss include:

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