The Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss 

Hearing loss is much more common than you may think. It is estimated that nearly 1 in every 6 people have some degree of hearing loss. Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss is a health epidemic in the U.S. Hearing loss is a permanent medical condition that reduces capacity to perceive and process sound which has multifaceted effects on all areas of life. Understanding what causes hearing loss and reducing risk factors can profoundly protect your hearing health. 

Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss 

Hearing loss can be congenital or acquired. Congenital hearing loss describes being born with impaired hearing which is not as common. The most common type of hearing loss is acquired, meaning that it develops during one’s lifetime. Several factors can contribute to the development of acquired hearing loss. The most common causes include: 

  1. Aging: aging is the greatest indicator of hearing loss. Known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss impacts older adults disproportionately. According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
  • 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74 have hearing loss
  • 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older have disabling hearing loss. 

There are a few factors that contribute to this increased risk for older adults including: existing medical conditions which also impact older adults disproportionately, the cumulative impact of noise exposure over time, and changes to the ears that may happen as a result of aging. 

  1. Loud noise exposure: one time or consistent exposure to loud noise can cause irreparable damage to the auditory system. Loud noise can cause the hair cells in the inner ear to lose sensitivity and die over time. Acting as sensory cells, these delicate and hair-like cells send crucial sound information to the brain. They translate incoming sound waves into electrical signals which get carried to the brain where they are further processed and assigned a meaning to which is what allows us to understand what we hear. Damaged hair cells disrupt this process, causing permanent hearing loss. 
  2. Medical conditions: extensive research explores and identifies medical conditions that increase the risk of hearing loss. This includes conditions like diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and hypertension. These medical conditions impact blood and oxygen flow throughout the body including the ears. Healthy blood supply is necessary for the cells, bones, and nerves in the ears to absorb and process sound. So constricted blood flow can impact these essential functions, contributing to hearing loss. 
  3. Ear infections: the accumulation of bacteria in the ears produces inflammation and excess fluId that is trapped behind the eardrum. This then prevents sound waves that land on the eardrum from getting delivered to the inner ear. This can produce symptoms that make it challenging to hear and process sound, causing temporary hearing loss.  
  4. Ear obstructions: these are physical blockages that prevent sound from either being fully absorbed or traveling through the ear canal to reach the inner ear. Ear obstructions can include an accumulation of earwax in the ear canal, growths, or injury from foreign objects being in the ear. This type of hearing loss is typically temporary. 

Other causes of acquired hearing loss includes head injuries, ototoxic medications, and inner ear disordered. 

Identifying Early Signs of Hearing Loss 

Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so early signs can be overlooked. Recognizing early symptoms of hearing loss can help you identify that you are experiencing changes to your hearing health. Common symptoms include: 

  • struggling to hear in noisy environments like restaurants 
  • Finding yourself asking others to speak louder or repeat something they’ve said 
  • Needing to increase the volume on the TV or your phone 
  • Experiencing tinnitus which is a ringing noise in one or both ears
  • Missing words or parts of a conversation
  • Lip reading to help identity words 
  • Sounds are distorted or muffled making it challenging to process 

Recognizing these signs and intervening early can prevent hearing loss from worsening and help you best transition into enhanced hearing. 

Treating Hearing Loss 

We offer comprehensive services and individualized care that is invested in transforming hearing health and wellness. The first step in treating hearing loss is having your hearing assessed. Our specialists have extensive experience in thoroughly assessing and treating hearing loss. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation.