Causes of Hearing Loss

If you have hearing loss, you may wonder what caused it. Your medical history, as well as the results of your hearing test will help provide information that will allow for a better understanding of factors that may have led to your current hearing condition.
In adults, the most common causes of hearing loss are:

Noise

Noise-induced hearing loss can affect people of all ages, and most often develops over the course of many years.  Prolonged exposure to high-level noise at work, during recreational activities (ie. riding motorcycles, attending concerts), or even common chores (such as using a lawn mower or using power tools) can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Age

Age-related hearing loss (also known as Presbycusis) is caused by changes in the nerves and cells of the inner ear due to the aging process, resulting in a gradual loss of hearing. This type of hearing loss may range from mild to severe, but it is always permanent.

Other causes of hearing loss include:

Ear Wax

Ear wax build-up or a foreign body in the ear canal can cause a blockage, resulting in a temporary hearing loss. Hearing loss due to a blockage of the ear canal is common and easily-treated.

Medications

Certain medications can be toxic to the nerves and cells of the inner ear. These medications can cause, or increase the risk of, hearing loss and developing tinnitus. Drugs, such as the antibiotic Gentamicin, Cialis or Viagra (erectile dysfunction medication), and certain chemotherapy drugs can damage the inner ear and result in permanent hearing loss. Additionally, temporary effects on your hearing (ie. ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss) can occur if you take very high doses of aspirin, other pain relievers, antimalarial drugs or loop diuretics.

Head Trauma

Injury to the head or ear can damage some of the physical structures in the ear (ie. the middle ear ossicles behind the eardrum), as well as cause permanent sudden hearing loss.

Ear Infection

Middle ear  infections (behind the eardrum), or an infection of the ear canal (ie. otitis externa or swimmer’s ear) can cause temporary hearing loss.  Fluid can also develop in the middle ear or after travelling on an airplane, and this fluid becomes a mechanical barrier in the ear canal and can result in hearing loss.  The fluid can often resolve on its own, or can be easy to treat medically.

Disease

Otosclerosis – A condition affecting the bones of the middle ear. There is often a medical/surgical option to improve the hearing.

Acoustic Neuroma – A non-cancerous tumor on the auditory (hearing) nerve.

Meniere’s Disease – Symptoms include temporary or permanent hearing loss, which can fluctuate in severity. Tinnitus and vertigo are also often present.

Non-cancerous (benign) growths – These include exostoses, osteomas and glomus tumors, which can cause hearing loss if they block the ear canal.

Illness

Illnesses that result in high fever (ie. meningitis, scarlet fever, mumps, measles and rubella) may damage the hair cells in the inner ear and result in permanent hearing loss. Infections acquired during pregnancy can also result in permanent hearing loss in the unborn child. This would include Cytomegalovirus (CMV), which is estimated to be the leading environmental cause of childhood hearing loss. Parasitic infections, such as Taxoplasmosis (which is transmitted by eating under-cooked meat or handling cat litter), can also result in birth defects and permanent hearing loss if exposure occurs during pregnancy.

Genetics

Hereditary hearing loss may be conductive (ie. mechanical), sensorineural (permanent and involving the inner and/or hearing nerve), or mixed (a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss). Hearing loss due to genetics can be syndromic (meaning that it is associated with malformations of the external ear, other organs or with medical problems involving other organ systems). Examples of syndromic hearing loss include Down Syndrome, Waardenburg Syndrome, Crouzon Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and Neurofibromatosis.

Hearing loss due to genetics can also be non-syndromic (meaning it is not associated with visible abnormalities of the external ear or any related medical problem). Non-syndromic hearing loss accounts for approximately 70% of cases of inherited hearing loss.

There are also medical conditions that do not affect the ear directly, but may also cause hearing loss:

Blood Flow

An interruption in blood flow to the inner ear, or parts of the brain that control hearing, may lead to hearing loss. This may be caused by:

– Heart Disease

– Stroke

– High Blood Pressure

– Diabetes

Autoimmune Disorders

Hearing loss resulting from autoimmune disorders (ie. rheumatoid arthritis), or autoimmune inner ear disorders, can occur in one or both ears.  The hearing often fluctuates in severity (ie. from a mild hearing loss changing rapidly to a severe to profound hearing loss).

At Halton Hearing Centre in Oakville:

Our hearing healthcare professionals will provide you with a thorough assessment of your hearing, as well as an overview of your overall hearing health.  We’re here to help you maintain your hearing, and to help you keep hearing at your best!

Contact the Halton Hearing Centre at 905-849-7560 or via email at admin@haltonhearing.com to book an appointment today!