The process of hearing is complicated. A disruption to the delicate and precise physiological coordination of the auditory system will result in a hearing loss. There are 3 types of hearing loss; conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. In this article, I hope to teach some of the causes of hearing loss so that you have a better understanding as to how we arrive at the best hearing solution for you.
Briefly, conductive hearing loss is a disruption to hearing sound within the outer and middle ear. Causes are:
- Blockage in the ear canal: Cerumen (wax) may build up over time within the ear canal to block the passage of sound, resulting in a temporary hearing loss.
- Osteoma or Exotosis: These are bony growths inside the ear canal. Over time, the sides of the ear canal may grow together to cause a hearing loss.
- Tympanic Membrane Perforation: This is a hole in the ear drum that occurs for many reasons such as blunt force trauma (falling into a pool with your ear slapping the water first), or ear infection (too much fluid builds up and the ear drum ruptures to release the fluid).
- Otitis Media: This is commonly known as an ear infection. It ususally occurs because the Eustachian Tube fails to open and close each time you swallow. As a result, fresh oxygen is not allowed to follow up the tube to oxygenate the cells behind the ear drum. As the cells become oxygen deprived, they rupture and release their fluid. If the fluid becomes infected, it is called an ear infection, or otitis media. Otitis media is the most commone cause of hearing loss in children.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss and occurs when there is damage or trauma to the cochlear nerve. Some common causes include:
- Noise: Exposure to loud noise, especially prolonged exposure, is the most common cause of hearing loss. Noise does more damage to the auditory system than most people realize, which is why it is ranked number one. The risk of noise exposure is widespread; affecting musicians, dentists, airport personnel, construction workers, mechanics, hunters, motor sports enthusiasts, concert goers, etc. Every exposure compounds with previous exposures to increase the likelihood of permanent hearing loss. Hearing loss may occur after the initial exposure to noise or hearing loss may occur after repeated exposure. The robustness of each person’s auditory system is different, therefore, it is unknown if permanent hearing loss will require one exposure or a hundred exposures.
- Presbycusis: The second most common cause of hearing loss is due to age. Typically, your family genetics play a significant role in age-related hearing loss. If your parents lost their hearing due to age, then you are more likely to lose your hearing as well.
- Heredity: The genetic makeup of an individual may result with hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is a known characteristic of certain hereditary syndromes.
- Viruses: Measles and mumps are the two well-known viruses that have the ability to cause hearing loss. Viruses that may be carried in the blood stream have the ability to travel to the cochela causing a sudden hearing loss that is usually not treatable through medication.
- Meniere’s Disease: This disease has three symptoms; fluctuating low frequency sensorineural hearing loss, vertigo, and tinnitus. These symptoms may appear and disappear randomly. There is no cure, rather the symptoms are treated as they manifest themselves.
- Mixed hearing loss occurs when a person has a conductive hearing loss and a sensorineural hearing loss. For example, if a child was born with a sensorineural hearing loss and then gets an ear infection causing a conductive hearing loss, these two hearing losses combine to create a greater loss known as a mixed hearing loss.
These are just a few of the common causes of hearing loss. The best way to understand what type of hearing loss you have and how to treat it is to visit a hearing professional near you. Please call any of Hearing Rehab Center’s 17 locations to schedule an evaluation with one of our providers and begin the journey to better hearing.