What Causes Hearing Loss?

What Causes Hearing Loss?

Did you know that hearing loss is the third most common health condition that people live with today? Over 48 million people have hearing loss, highlighting that the prevalence of hearing loss is twice as common as diabetes or cancer. Learning about what exactly causes hearing loss and how you can prioritize care for your hearing can significantly support your overall health and wellness. 

Common Causes of Hearing Loss

Several factors can contribute to the development of hearing loss. Common causes include the following: 

  1. Aging: aging is the strongest indicator of hearing loss. The risk of developing hearing loss increases with age. Also known as presbycusis, there are a few factors that contribute to this increased risk including: 
  • changes to the structure of the ears that may be experienced over time. 
  • existing medical conditions that are linked to hearing loss and also impact older adults disproportionately. 
  • the cumulative impact of loud noise exposure on the auditory system – the sensory system for hearing. 

It is important for older adults to have their hearing assessed regularly as they 

age. Integrating a hearing test in annual health check-ins and evaluations is a useful way to go about ensuring that you stay on top of your hearing health. 

  1. Loud noise: the World Health Organization estimates that over 1 billion people (globally) are at high risk for experiencing hearing loss due to loud noise exposure. One time or regular exposure to loud noise can damage the sensory cells in the inner ear. These cells help process soundwaves before these signals are sent to the brain. Loud noise can desensitize and weaken these cells, reducing their capacity to effectively process soundwaves. This results in the brain receiving less auditory information, causing hearing loss. 

People who work in noisy environments – construction, musicians, restaurants 

etc. as well as people who listen to audio on devices regularly should protect their hearing health. A useful way to do this is by wearing hearing protection which includes items like headphones and earplugs. 

  1. Head injuries: according to the CDC, over 3 million head injuries occur annually. Head injuries range from mild concussions to traumatic brain injuries. This can contribute to hearing loss in several ways including: damaging the bones in the middle ear, rupturing the eardrum, impaired sensory cells in the inner ear, and impacting the portions of the brain that are responsible for processing auditory information. These components play significant roles in how sound is absorbed and processed. Common causes of head injuries include falls, car/bike accidents, injuries from contact sports. It is important to wear safety gear and to be aware of potential hazards in the environments you navigate.  
  1. Medical conditions: substantial research explores the medical conditions that can impact hearing health. There are several medical conditions that can increase the risk of developing hearing loss. This includes conditions like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, and diabetes. These conditions impact blood vessels and can restrict blood flow throughout the body including the ears. This can impair sensory cells and reduce capacity to effectively process incoming sound waves, contributing to hearing loss. 
  1. Inner ear disorders: there are different types of inner ear disorders that can also cause hearing loss. This includes Meniere’s disease which is related to an increase of pressure in the inner ear. Though exact causes of this inner ear disorder are unknown, it involves an accumulation of  fluid in the inner ear. This produces inflammation which can impact parts that are critical for hearing. 

Other causes of hearing loss include autoimmune conditions, ototoxic medications, acoustic neuroma, and chronic ear infections. 

How to Prioritize Your Hearing Health

There are many useful ways you can prioritize your hearing health. This includes wearing hearing protection, reducing your exposure to loud noise, and prioritizing care for any medical conditions you have. Another effective strategy is getting your hearing evaluated regularly which allows you to track your hearing health. Hearing tests involve a painless and noninvasive evaluation process that assesses and identifies your hearing needs. This then allows a hearing healthcare provider to tailor treatment to meet those needs. Treating hearing loss strengthens hearing and communication as well as improves relationships, social life, and overall health. 

Treatment allows people to live active and full lives. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation!