Hearing loss causes

What causes hearing loss?

In this article, you will get a deeper insight into:

Let’s dive right in.

“There is a good chance that you can blame your hearing loss on your parents.”

Contents

1.

Hearing loss causes

2.

Sudden hearing loss causes

3.

Causes of hearing loss in one ear

1.

Hearing loss causes

Some people mistakenly think that being exposed to loud noise and age are the only hearing loss causes there are.

But they are wrong.

In this chapter, we’ll look at 15 different hearing loss causes.

What causes hearing loss?

Many things can cause hearing loss. However, it’s not always possible to diagnose exactly what has caused your particular hearing loss.

But if you experience hearing loss, there is a good chance that you can trace it back to at least one of the 15 hearing loss causes below.

  1. Inherited hearing loss
  2. Age-related hearing loss
  3. Noise-related hearing loss
  4. Head injury-related hearing loss
  5. Head tumor-related hearing loss (acoustic neuroma)
  6. Ménière’s disease
  7. Earwax
  8. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) hearing loss
  9. Swimmer’s ear
  10. Bone growth inside the ear (otosclerosis)
  11. Glue ear
  12. Skin cell accumulation (cholesteatoma)
  13. Medication-related hearing loss (ototoxic)
  14. Ruptured eardrum
  15. Virus (ear infection)

1. Inherited hearing loss​

Not everybody knows this, but there is a good chance that you can blame your hearing loss on your parents.

Why can genetics cause hearing loss?

As with height and looks, you can inherit a hearing loss.

To clarify, it’s not the hearing loss you inherit, but the hair cell genes. And those hair cells are crucial for your hearing and help your brain understand sounds.

So if “bad hearing” runs in your family, there is a risk that you’ve inherited the same hair cell genes that have caused the hearing loss as your parents and grandparents.

How common is inherited hearing loss?​

An estimated 2 out of every 1,000 are born with some hearing loss for babies, around half of which are regarded as due to a hereditary condition.

It’s a bit more tricky for adults to estimate, as hearing loss also can be related to other causes (as the 14 other causes below). However, it’s believed genetic factors trigger an estimated 35-55% of people with age-related hearing loss.

What are the inherited hearing loss treatment options?

Treatments only include hearing aids and/or cochlear implants and cannot be medically or surgically corrected.

6. Ménière's disease

Ménière’s sounds a bit like a French dish.

However, it’s actually one of the few hearing loss causes that’s not fully understood. To this day, the causes of Ménière’s is not known, why it can be a frightening thing to experience for those suffering from it.

Why can Ménière's disease cause hearing loss?

The exact cause of Ménière’s disease is unknown, but it’s associated with a problem with pressure deep inside the ear.

How common is Ménière's disease-related hearing loss?

According to current statistics, Meniere’s affects roughly 615,000 people in the United States, making it a relatively rare disorder. About 0.2 percent of the U.S. population has it. And each year, about 45,500 new cases are diagnosed.

What are the Ménière's disease-related hearing loss treatment options?

There’s no cure for Ménière’s disease, but medicine can help control symptoms like vertigo, nausea, and vomiting.

However, a hearing aid in the affected ear might improve your hearing.

7. Earwax

Earwax is completely normal and something that everybody has, and under normal circumstances beneficial, as it helps clean the ear. However, earwax can also cause temporary hearing loss.

Why can earwax cause hearing loss?

Too much earwax can cause blockage in the ear canal preventing sounds from getting into your inner ear.

How common is earwax-related hearing loss?

There aren’t any exact numbers on how frequently earwax causes hearing loss.

However, it is the most common type of conductive hearing loss (where the hearing loss is caused by a blockage in the ear canal, preventing sounds from entering the inner ear).

What are the earwax-related hearing loss treatment options?

Fortunately, hearing loss caused by earwax is easily treatable.

The main treatments involve either eardrops or different minor procedures where a health care professional cleans your ear. 

8. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)-related hearing loss

The TMJ is located next to your ear and connects your skull to the lower jaw.

Why can the TMJ cause hearing loss?

Since the TMJ is located next to the middle ear, a disorder in the jaw can affect your hearing. While the exact reason isn’t clear, it’s thought that pressure or inflammation from the TMJ can affect nerves and muscles in the area, leading to blocked eustachian tubes.

As a result, tinnitus or difficulty hearing can occur because the eustachian tubes cannot properly drain the middle ear fluid.

How common is TMJ-related hearing loss?

Issues with the TMJ is a relatively common condition and affects people of all ages, with about one-third of adults experiencing some symptoms.

However, TMJ is by no means one of the primary hearing loss causes. 

What are the TMJ-related hearing loss treatment options?

In some cases, the symptoms of TMJ disorder may go away without treatment.

Several different treatment options are available, such as medicine, therapy, and surgical procedures if your symptoms persist.

9. Swimmer's ear​

Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head.

It’s often brought on by water that remains in your ear after swimming (although you can also get it from showers, baths or washing your hair), creating a moist environment that aids bacterial growth.

Why can swimmer's ear cause hearing loss?

As a result of the infection in the outer ear canal, blockage might occur, preventing sounds from getting into the inner ear.

How common is swimmer's ear-related hearing loss?

Swimmer’s ear is more common in children and young adults. However, you can get it at any age.

What are the swimmer's ear-related hearing loss treatment options?

Swimmer’s ear is usually treatable with a 7 to 10-day course of antibiotic ear drops. However, your doctor may need to remove some debris from the ear canal so that the antibiotic drops can reach the site of infection.

Talk to your physician as soon as you suspect swimmer’s ear so that you can get treatment right away to prevent the infection from spreading.

10. Bone growth inside the ear (otosclerosis)​

Otosclerosis is a condition in which there’s abnormal bone growth inside the ear.

Why can otosclerosis cause hearing loss?

Otosclerosis is most often caused when one of the middle ear bones, called the stapes, become stuck in place. As a result, the bone cannot vibrate, and sounds cannot travel through the ear and cause hearing loss.

How common is otosclerosis-related hearing loss?

More than 3 million Americans have otosclerosis and is a relatively common cause of hearing loss in young adults. Furthermore, women are twice as likely to get otosclerosis.

However, as otosclerosis progresses over time, not everyone will experience hearing loss first, but many will eventually.

But, if you have otosclerosis, you’re in good company, as the most famous example of otosclerosis is said to be Beethoven.

What are the otosclerosis-related hearing loss treatment options?

Depending on the severity, otosclerosis can be treated with either hearing aids or surgery.

11. Glue ear​

Glue ear is a condition where the empty middle part of the ear canal fills up with fluid.

Why can glue ear cause hearing loss?

For ears to work properly, the middle ear needs to be kept full of air, so sound can easily enter.

However, when “glue ear” fills the ear canal up with fluids, it can prevent sound from getting into the inner ear, which can cause temporary hearing loss.

How common is glue ear-related hearing loss?

Glue ear is very common among kids, and around 80% of kids will experience glue ear before turning 10.

What are the glue ear-related hearing loss treatment options?

There is no medicine for glue ear. However, it usually clears up within three months, but we recommend seeing a hearing specialist if you experience hearing problems.

But suppose the glue ear does not disappear. In that case, your hearing specialist might recommend either blowing up a special balloon using one nostril at a time or swallowing while holding the nostrils closed.

12. Skin cell accumulation (cholesteatoma)

A cholesteatoma is an abnormal collection of skin cells deep inside your ear.

Why can cholesteatoma cause hearing loss?

While regular skin cells themselves are harmless, cholesteatoma, if left untreated, can cause permanent hearing loss.

As a result, the extra collection of skin cells can damage the delicate structures inside your ear that are essential for hearing and balance.

How common is cholesteatoma-related hearing loss?

It’s not known exactly how many people has cholesteatoma. However, it’s a relatively rare condition, so if you experience hearing loss, there is a good chance that it isn’t cholesteatoma.

What are the cholesteatoma-related hearing loss treatment options?

Cholesteatoma can be treated in several different ways. It may involve careful cleaning of the ear, antibiotics, eardrops therapy, or surgery.

14. Ruptured eardrum

A ruptured eardrum is a hole or tear in the thin tissue that separates your ear canal from your middle ear.

The tear can be caused by anything from 

Why can a ruptured eardrum cause hearing loss?

When sound waves strike your eardrum, your eardrum vibrates. Consequently, your middle and inner ear have a hard time “translating” the sound waves, making it more difficult for your brain to interpret the sounds.

How common is a ruptured eardrum-related hearing loss?

A ruptured eardrum is especially common amongst children, where it’s a common side effect of a middle ear infection.

However, it can also happen amongst adults due to loud noises, the use of a cotton swab, diving, a head injury, etc.

What are the ruptured eardrum-related hearing loss treatment options?

Usually, the eardrum will heal by itself if the hole is small. However, your healthcare specialist might prescribe antibiotics if the hearing loss is due to an ear infection.

The vast majority who experience a ruptured eardrum will get their hearing back to normal within a few weeks.

15. Virus (ear infection)

Everybody catches several viruses during their lifetime. But did you know that some viruses can actually lead to hearing loss?

Why can a virus cause hearing loss?

There is no single virus that causes hearing loss. However, several different viruses can lead to ear infections, which again can lead to hearing loss.

The viruses are very different, and so are the people infected. As a result, the severity of the hearing loss caused by a virus is very different.

How common is virus-related hearing loss?

There are no exact data on how common virus related hearing loss is. However, the majority of cases of sudden hearing loss are believed to be because of viral infections.

Furthermore, viral infections causing hearing loss are also more common in children than adults, such as middle ear infections.

What are the virus-related hearing loss treatment options?

The treatment varies from case to case. Therefore it’s essential to seek professional help, so you can get a diagnosis quickly and start the treatment as soon as possible.

If treated correctly, most people will get their hearing back to normal within a few weeks.

2.

Sudden hearing loss causes

An estimated 10% of American adults have experienced sudden hearing loss.

But what is a sudden hearing loss? What causes it? And what should you do?

That is what we’ll answer now.

What is a sudden hearing loss?

The answer is very simple:

A sudden hearing loss is just what it sounds like. It’s a hearing loss that happens very suddenly and seems to appear out of thin air within days or even hours.

What causes a sudden hearing loss?

Of the 15 hearing loss causes mentioned above, the following eight can cause a sudden hearing loss. See why when they cause a sudden hearing loss:

  • Noise-related hearing loss: Happens suddenly when your ears are exposed to an extremely loud noise one time. However, noise-related hearing loss is more common as a hearing loss that appears gradually rather than suddenly.
  • Head injury-related hearing loss: A head injury is something that appears suddenly, and so is the related hearing loss. It’s not one of the most common types of sudden hearing loss.
  • Ménière’s disease: Related hearing loss usually happens suddenly. Only 0.2% of Americans have ménières disease, so it’s a relatively rare disease.
  • Earwax: Usually only happens suddenly within days or weeks. Earwax-related hearing loss is, along with ear infections, the number one cause of sudden hearing loss. 
  • Swimmer’s ear: Is a relatively common form of sudden hearing loss, especially among swimmers. However, it can also happen to everyone else, for example, after a bath or shower. The hearing loss occurs suddenly as swimmer’s ear causes an ear infection that can reduce hearing within days or weeks.
  • Medication-related hearing loss (ototoxic): If you experience a hearing loss after changing your medication, you might have ototoxic. However, ototoxic is not the most frequent type of hearing loss.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Is especially common amongst children, often as a side effect of an ear infection. However, a ruptured eardrum can also happen to adults, for example, due to loud noises, the use of a cotton swab, diving, etc.
  • Virus (ear infection): Usually only happens suddenly within days or weeks. Ear infections are, together with earwax, the number one cause of sudden hearing loss.

What are the most common causes of sudden hearing loss?

Of the nine sudden hearing loss causes above, there aren’t any exact data measuring how frequent each cause is.

However, by experience, we know that the vast majority of sudden hearing loss is due to either earwax or ear infections. Furthermore, glue ear and ruptured eardrum is a relatively common cause of hearing loss amongst children.

And that’s good news, as they’re all relatively easily treatable and usually only cause temporary hearing loss.

What should you do if you experience a sudden hearing loss?

Firstly, if you suspect that your sudden hearing loss is caused by earwax, we recommend that you try and remove it. If that doesn’t help to an extent where you get your hearing back to normal, we recommend seeing a hearing specialist.

Secondly, if you think your sudden hearing loss is caused by anything else, we recommend that you see your hearing specialist as soon as possible. The quicker the reaction, the higher the possibility of saving your hearing.

Although treatments for sudden hearing loss are still fairly limited, they are important, and 85% of those who receive prompt medical attention regain some or all of their hearing.

Therefore it’s crucial that you take control of the situation and see a hearing specialist immediately.

3.

Causes of hearing loss in one ear

Having trouble hearing sounds in only one of your ears is a common problem and should be taken just as seriously as hearing loss in both ears.

But what causes a so-called unilateral hearing loss? And what should you do if you experience it?

That’s what we’ll take a look at now.

What causes a hearing loss in one ear?

All of the 15 causes of hearing loss mentioned on our list above can potentially cause unilateral hearing loss.

However, while noise and age are the most significant causes for a “classical” two-eared hearing loss, unilateral hearing loss is often associated with one of the following causes:

  • Inherited hearing loss: If you have an inherited unilateral hearing loss, you’ve most likely had it since you were born, and it does therefore not come suddenly. The hearing loss is permanent but can usually be effectively treated with hearing aids.
  • Head injury-related hearing loss: Can occur suddenly after an accident where you’ve hit your head. It’s one of the more common one-sided hearing loss causes. The severity of the hearing loss depends on the situation but is, in most cases, treatable or will go over after some time.
  • Head tumor-related hearing loss (acoustic neuroma): Is not the most frequent hearing loss cause. However, as the tumor is usually only in one ear, it also often cause hearing loss in one ear. The tumor varies from case to case, but there are several different treatment options.
  • Ménière’s disease: Only 0.2% of Americans have ménière’s condition, making it a relatively rare disorder. It’s usually experienced pretty suddenly over the course of days or weeks. The hearing loss is permanent but can be treated with hearing aids.
  • Earwax: One of the most common causes of unilateral hearing loss. It’s usually something that’s experienced “suddenly” within days or weeks. Fortunately, earwax only results in temporary hearing loss and can be treated fairly easily.
  • Swimmer’s ear: Is most common amongst children and young adults – and of course, swimmers. The ear infection caused by swimmer’s ear can appear suddenly, along with the hearing loss. However, the hearing loss is usually temporarily if treated.
  • Bone growth inside the ear (otosclerosis): Is a relatively rare condition. The hearing loss appears gradually over time as the bone grows larger and prevents more and more sound from reaching the inner ear. Depending on the severity, otosclerosis can be treated with either hearing aids or surgery.
  • Glue ear: Is very common among kids, where around 80% will have experienced it by the age of 10. It happens when fluid slowly fills up the ear canal. There is no medicine for glue ear. However, it usually clears up within three months, but we recommend seeing a hearing specialist if you experience hearing problems.
  • Skin cell accumulation (cholesteatoma): Is a relatively rare condition. The hearing loss gradually gets worse over a more extended period.  Cholesteatoma can be treated in several different ways and may involve careful cleaning of the ear, antibiotics, eardrops therapy, or surgery.
  • Ruptured eardrum: Is a very common cause of unilateral hearing loss amongst children but can also happen to adults. The hearing loss appears suddenly but is treatable. The vast majority who experience a ruptured eardrum will get their hearing back to normal within a few weeks. 
  • Virus (ear infection): Is a very common unilateral cause of hearing loss and usually appears suddenly over the cause of days or weeks. Usually, your hearing will get back to normal within a few weeks.

What are the most common causes of unilateral hearing loss?

As with sudden hearing loss, the most common type of unilateral hearing loss is earwax and ear infections. And for children, glue ear and a ruptured eardrum is also a common cause for unilateral hearing loss.

And that’s good news, as all are relatively easily treatable and usually only cause temporary hearing loss.

What should you do if you experience a unilateral hearing loss?

You should act exactly as with a sudden hearing loss. Therefore you should:

Firstly, if you suspect that your unilateral hearing loss is caused by earwax, we recommend that you try and remove it. If that doesn’t help to an extent where you get your hearing back to normal, we recommend seeing a hearing specialist.

Secondly, if you think your unilateral hearing loss is caused by anything else, we recommend that you see your hearing specialist as soon as possible. The quicker the reaction, the higher the possibility of saving your hearing.

It’s crucial that you take control of the situation and see a hearing specialist immediately.