The Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss

The Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss

If you have hearing loss its most likely sensorineural hearing loss, which accounts for 90% of all cases. Even so it’s important to understand the different types. Understanding how and why you got your hearing loss can help you prevent more damage to your ears in the future.

Three types of Hearing Loss

The three types of hearing loss are 

  • Sensorineural: meaning damage has occurred to the inner ear impeding the delivery of some audio information to the brain. 
  • Conductive: Meaning there is a blockage of some nature in the ear canal which prevents you from hearing. 
  • Mixed Hearing Loss: a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive.

Congenital versus Acquired Hearing Loss

A broader category is between hearing loss present at birth versus hearing loss acquired during your lifetime. If you were born with hearing loss then your hearing loss is considered congenital. Up to 3 in 1,000 babies (less than 1 percent) are born with some degree of congenital hearing loss in the United States each year. Acquired hearing loss is much more common with causes ranging from conductive to sensorineural:

Common Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss

Presbycusis: One of the most common causes of hearing loss is age related hearing loss also known as presbycusis. It occurs due to a lifetime of listening and to changes in the ear as we age. While one in three people 65 and older suffer presbycusis, this number jumps to one in two by the time people reach 75 and older. For those rare enough to live to be 100 years old there is a 100 percent chance you will have hearing loss.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss: Sound is one of the hugest factors in damage to the inner ear. We collect sound with our ears, but sound is understood and identified in the brain. When sounds exceed a safe listening level, tiny hair-like cells responsible for transmitting sound from the ears to the brain can become permanently damaged. Sound is measured in decibels and sounds surpassing 85 dBA and higher can cause the hair-like cells to fracture and become destroyed when vibrations become too violent. Generally an individual can withstand 85 dBA consistently for 8 hours before damage starts to occurs, but as the decibel level rises, the time it takes for damage to occur quickly decreases. At 95 dBA it only takes an hour of constant exposure for damage to occur and at 110 dBA it takes around 15 minuets!

Impact to the Head: when we sustain a hit to our head while playing contact sports, riding skateboards, riding a bike or having a car accident, it can damage the inner ear, including the eardrum, the tiny ossicles, or the part of the brain which processes sound. In many cases with quick attention hearing loss can be reversed.

Existing Medical Conditions: As we age our health can easily become our main focus. However, by keeping up with your health issues, it’s hopeful that you’ll be able to focus on other things as well. Common medical conditions more common with age include hypertension, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. Aside from the obvious side effects of each of these, if you’ve been diagnosed with any of these conditions, it’s important to screen for hearing loss as well. Hearing loss becomes more likely in each of these conditions. As for diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular issues it comes down to the delivery of blood throughout the body, including the inner ear. The hair-like cells of the inner ear rely on a regular and healthy supply of oxygenated blood to maintain health. These ongoing conditions affect the quality of blood throughout the body and can leave the inner ear more prone to damage and sensorineural hearing loss. Osteoporosis on the other hand is more common in how it effects the tiniest bones in the entire body – the ossicles which reverberate sound within the inner ear.

Conductive Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss

The good thing about conductive hearing loss is that is can be cleared as soon as the blockage in the ear canal is resolved. This includes ear infections in which fluid closed up passage of sound in the ear, and buildup of earwax or the growth of tumors and extraneous bone in the ear canal.

Treating Sensorineural Hearing Loss

While there is no cure for sensorineural hearing loss it can be treated. To find out how we can help you, to start, schedule a hearing exam with us today!