What Causes Hearing Loss?

Deafness and reduced or absent hearing can be congenital, meaning a child is born with reduced ability to hear. This can range from mild to severe. Severe hearing loss often requires the use of sign language and is beyond the use of a hearing aid. Babies with hearing problems often show delayed development, especially in speech and cognition.

For many people problems with hearing are familiar, meaning that they develop sometimes in life after birth. Sometimes it is hard to find the reason or reasons for an individual's hearing loss. For some people the loss is minimal and for others it is more severe.

There are two main causes for acquired hearing loss and deafness in patients. There are more specific causes within each general category.

Sensor neural hearing loss is quite common. In this type of problem there is damage to nerve transmission of sound somewhere along the pathway from within the inner ear to the brain. It is often called 'nerve deafness'. In the cochlea, which is in the inner ear, there are hair cells that transmit sound impulses to the brain through nerves. Any nerve injury that interferees with this information transfer from the hair cells of the inner ear to the auditory nerve that conducts from the inner ear to the brain causes sensor neural hearing loss.

Some examples of this type of problem include:

Aging – Older people often lose cochlear hair cells which is often responsible for decreased hearing in more senior adults. This can be mild or severe hearing loss. Sometimes the loss is sufficient enough to require a hearing aid.

Acoustic Trauma- This refers to having an injury of some kind to the nervous contracting mechanisms. Very loud noises can damage hair cells in the inner ear. This is why excessive volume for sound producing electronics is so dangerous to hearing. Also ear protection should be worn in noisy environments, such as working in a shop or during hunting.

Infections – Some infections can cause loss of hair cells ie mumps or meningitis. Sensor neural hearing loss does not always show up immediately but usually does not improve once it develops. That development can be gradual over many years, or it can be sudden and acute.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing loss is basically caused by obstruction in the outer or middle ear which prompts or inhibits sound passing to the inner ear. Many of these causes are acute and can be resolved.

This type can be caused by anything that interferes with the transmission of sound from the outer to the inner ear, such as;

Ear infections are common in children. Hearing typically returns to normal one the infection subsides.

When the ear behind the tympanic membrane (the middle ear) becomes filled with a sticky fluid, often resulting from many reoccurring ear infections, conductive (temporary) reduced hearing occurs, which typically resolves after the fluid is drained.

Wax build up in the ear canal can cause hearing loss, which usually resolves when the wax is removed.

Damage to the small bones in the ear (ossicles) or a perforated ear drum (a hole in the ear drum) can cause reduced hearing that can be permanent. These problems can cause sufficient permanent hearing loss. Some of these problems can improve with the use of a hearing aid. Hearing aids are a choice to help with some chronic hearing loss problems. There are many types and style available to suit most users needs, and can help improve the user's lifestyle. A professional can provide definitive advice about what is suitable for an individual's specific needs.