Causes of hearing loss

A quick look at why you or a loved one could be experiencing hearing loss

Learning about the causes of hearing loss and the type of hearing loss you or a loved one could be experiencing is the first step towards finding solutions that allow life to be lived to the fullest. Experiencing hearing loss – whatever the cause or extent – isn’t pleasant, but there is good news: thanks to modern hearing aid technology, hearing loss is a treatable condition.

Hearing loss falls into two broad categories: the first is congenital, which is hearing loss that is present at birth and caused by factors like genetics or premature birth. The second is acquired, which is hearing loss that occurs after birth, and is the result of factors like illness or damage to the ear.

Although we in fact “hear” with our brains, hearing loss happens when one part of the ear – the outer, middle or inner ear – is damaged or unable to function properly, and cannot conduct sound signals to the brain normally.

Causes in the outer ear

These are usually easy to address, and include problems like wax plugs and infections of the auditory canal.

Causes in the middle ear

Inflammation, fluid behind the eardrum, perforations of the eardrum and otosclerosis (a stiffening of the bones in the middle ear) are the most common middle ear issues. Most outer and middle ear problems can be effectively fixed with medication or surgery.

Causes in the inner ear

This is where most hearing issues arise. The most common cause is the natural aging process, but loud noise, some types of medication or skull fractures can also affect hearing. Fine hair cells in the inner ear become damaged and affect the transmission of signals to the auditory nerves. Usually, inner ear hearing loss cannot be addressed medically but can be corrected with hearing aids.

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