Causes of Hearing Loss

hearing loss types and causes

Nearly 48 million people in Houston, Texas and around the country are suffering from hearing loss. This number has actually doubled within the last 30 years. While hearing loss is the third most common physical condition in the United States (behind only arthritis and heart disease), there are a wide variety of causes.

Age-Related Hearing Loss

The most common type of hearing loss  is presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss. Diminished hearing is a common side effect of aging, usually coming on gradually and affecting high-pitched sounds most frequently. It occurs as a result of:

  • Natural changes in the inner ear of over time
  • Hereditary factors
  • Changes in the blood supply to the ear thanks to heart disease, high blood pressure, vascular conditions and circulatory problems
  • Side effects of some medications

An estimated one third of adults aged 65 or older experience age-related hearing loss; that number jumps to nearly 50 percent by the age of 75. Presbycusis usually affects both ears equally. It may be mild, moderate or severe.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common type experienced by younger individuals. It can be caused by exposure to a single loud sound, such as a gunshot or explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud noise over a period of time.

When sounds exceed 85 decibels (dB) they are considered hazardous to your hearing health. Continuous exposure to volume levels that high causes permanent damage to the hair cells in your ears. Activities that put people at risk for noise-induced hearing loss include:

  • Hunting
  • Riding a motorcycle
  • Listening to music at a high volume
  • Playing in a band
  • Attending rock concerts

An estimated 15 percent of Americans aged 20 to 69 have hearing loss that may have been caused by noise exposure. This type of hearing loss can be prevented by wearing earplugs and protective devices.

The Three Categories of Hearing Loss

Many other factors can contribute to hearing loss, which is divided into three separate categories:

  • Conductive hearing loss (associated with problems in the middle ear)
  • Sensorineural, or nerve-related hearing loss (associated with problems in the inner ear)
  • Mixed hearing loss

Presbycusis and noise-induced hearing loss fall into sensorineural category.

Additional Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss Include

  • Head trauma
  • Viruses or disease
  • Malformations of the inner ear
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Otosclerosis
  • Tumors
  • Heredity

Conductive Hearing Loss can be Caused By

  • Ear infections
  • Colds
  • Allergies
  • Impacted earwax
  • Foreign objects in the ear canal
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Poor Eustachian tube function
  • Malformation of the outer or middle ear, including the ear canal

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both

Individuals with this type of hearing loss have damage to their outer or middle ear and their inner ear or auditory nerve.

As you can see, there are a number of causes of hearing loss. While some, like aging, are unavoidable, some can be prevented. Contact your Houston audiologist today to learn more about protecting your hearing.

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