Hearing Loss Causes
Hearing loss is a condition that can affect anyone at any age. It ranks third among the most common chronic physical conditions among older adults in the U.S. It is more common than diabetes or even cancer. Over 40 million Americans are suffering from hearing loss. Although hearing loss might not be life-threatening, it is still a serious medical condition. It can be severely debilitating and significantly impact a person’s quality of life.
Although hearing loss can occur at any age, it worsens and increases in incidence as one ages. This article will discuss the most common hearing loss causes.
There are various causes of hearing loss in adults and children; one of the most common ones is noise exposure. This can be due to amplified music and listening to mobile phones for long periods among young children. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, around 12% of American children experience noise-induced hearing loss. This is important because some studies show that a decrease in hearing may have an association with a decrease in cognition. According to the World Health Organization, around 30 million Americans above the age of 12 had hearing loss in both ears, and 40 million Americans had hearing loss in at least one ear.
For the working population, noise exposure is related to occupational hearing loss. Occupational hearing loss is hearing loss obtained due to hazardous noise exposure usually experienced at work. This is the most common U.S. work-related illness affecting around 20 million working Americans. Studies show that the mining sector, followed by the construction and manufacturing sectors, are the industries with the highest incidence of workers suffering from hearing impairment. Hearing loss can lead to decreased productivity and increased healthcare costs, with a higher risk for unemployment. Because of this, it is important to take preventive measures and be vigilant in quick detection and management to prevent further damage to hearing and maintain a good quality of life.
Hearing loss usually occurs among the older age group, ranging from 45-65 years old. In this age group, the ears are more susceptible to hearing loss and where the effects of hearing damage are most noticeable. When we age, the cochlea, the hair cells in the inner ear, and the nerves that control signals from the ear to the brain degenerate. That is why age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is common. A hearing test will be helpful for the elderly experiencing hearing loss. This can also determine whether the hearing loss is age-related or due to another condition. Protecting the ears can be helpful in preventing faster progression of hearing loss as someone grows older. This can be done by covering the ears or wearing earplugs when the environment is noisy.
Genetic causes of hearing loss are common in children. More than 50% of hearing loss is due to syndromes and mutations wherein hearing loss is one of the features. Hearing loss can also occur prenatally if the mother is exposed to bacterial or viral infections or teratogens during pregnancy.
Ear Wax Build up
A build-up of ear wax, or cerumen, is a common cause of hearing loss. Cerumen impaction is a condition where the earwax builds up and gets stuck in the ear canal. If enough ear wax accumulates, it can block the eardrum and cause hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is also known as conductive hearing loss, where there is a problem with the movement of sound in the external or middle ear. Compared to other causes of hearing loss, it is reversible and easy to prevent. You can avoid this type of hearing loss by just keeping the ears clean and dry. It is not recommended to clean with cotton balls or Q-tips as it can further push the ear wax into the canal and cause further blockage.
Inflammation or Infection
External vestibulitis is caused by inflammation of the external ear. If you have external vestibulitis, you will notice pain or itching in the ear canal and on the ear’s outer surface. External ear infections are also a common cause of hearing loss. When you have an ear infection, the bacteria in your ear canal can cause damage to the hair cells in your inner ear, leading to hearing loss. Infections and inflammation of the ear can also present with ear pain, ear discharge, and a sensation of fullness or pressure in the ear due to the inflammation and blockage of the ear canal. When this happens, you need to see a doctor immediately. This condition can lead to permanent hearing loss if it is not treated.
If you have been experiencing any hearing issues, it could be time to get a checkup from your doctor soon. The good news is that most causes of hearing loss can be prevented. With the right protective equipment, you can prevent hearing loss, especially those that come from noise exposure. Depending on the nature and cause of hearing loss, a team can attend to your needs to get the evaluation and management you need. Contact a doctor today if you are experiencing symptoms of hearing loss.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Loud Noise Can Cause Hearing Loss)
- National Library of Medicine (Hearing Loss in Adults)
- Hearing Health Foundation. (Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Statistics)
- National Library of Medicine (Hearing Loss in Adults: Differential Diagnosis and Treatment)
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (Quick Statistics About Hearing)
- National Library of Medicine (Sensorineural Hearing Loss)
- World Health Organization (Deafness and Hearing Loss)