Male physician examing female patient's ear

Because the ear’s primary functions are hearing and helping maintain balance, ear problems such as hearing loss can impact the ability to communicate and function effectively. It is a common problem for older adults, but hearing loss can affect people of all ages.

If your hearing becomes impaired or you are concerned about developing hearing loss, it helps to know some of the causes. Below are the five leading causes of hearing loss.

Aging

Age is the most common reason for someone to develop hearing loss, and most adults over 65 experience some form of impaired hearing. Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, comes on gradually with age. Because hearing loss due to age is gradual, someone with presbycusis may not realize that they have lost some of their hearing ability for quite some time.

Age-related hearing loss could be genetic and result from changes in the inner ear and auditory nerve. The condition generally occurs in both ears and affects them equally. Presbycusis may make it challenging to tolerate loud sounds or to hear when others are speaking.

Chronic exposure to loud noise

The second leading cause of hearing loss is noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL, which occurs when loud sounds damage sensitive structures in the inner ear. The condition can:

  • Be temporary or permanent
  • Affect one or both ears
  • Affect anyone at any age

Generally, this type of hearing loss is painless and gradually progresses. However, a sudden and loud sound can also cause hearing loss. Many entertainers in the music industry or concert-goers experience this type of hearing loss, and a variety of sounds can damage the inner ear:

  • Loud music (live or earphones)
  • Firearms
  • Explosives
  • Any loud noise for an extended amount of time.

The louder the sound, the shorter it takes for NIHL to occur. However, NIHL is preventable. If you suspect you’ll be in a noisy environment, bring ear protection such as earplugs or earmuffs and move away from the sound source when possible. Take extra care to protect the little ones, as children’s ears are even more sensitive to sound.

Diseases and medications

Several diseases cause hearing loss, including:

  • Otosclerosis stops full sound from reaching the inner ear
  • Ménière's Disease causes permanent hearing loss
  • Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease can quickly cause hearing loss

Medications used to treat various diseases can cause or contribute to hearing loss. Some drugs are ototoxic, meaning they have a toxic effect on the ear or its nerves. Some medicines that affect hearing include:

  • Aspirin
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Some medications used in chemotherapy

Excessive ear wax

Although earwax naturally forms in and exits out of your ear, it can build up and block your ears. Also called cerumen, it can form a plug in the ear canal and cause hearing problems until removed. Using cotton buds or your fingers to attempt to remove it can cause further blockage causing undesirable symptoms, such as increased difficulty in hearing or pain.

Head injury

Sudden injury to the head can cause bruising, swelling, or localized bleeding, which can significantly damage parts critical for the auditory system. This includes:

  • Ruptured eardrum
  • Damaged ossicles and hair cells
  • Restricted blood flow
  • Obstructed auditory pathways

Some examples of physical head injuries that can cause hearing loss include:

This loss may be reversible; however, extensive damage can cause permanent hearing loss.

Treating hearing loss at Texas ENT Specialists

If you’re experiencing hearing loss, book an appointment with one of our many Texas locations to address what is causing your hearing loss. Our highly-trained ENTs in Houston and surrounding locations take time to learn about you and your medical history while listening to your concerns so we can effectively treat the cause of your hearing loss.

We understand that dealing with impaired hearing can be a challenging and scary experience, and we will handle your treatment with the utmost care and compassion, so you feel safe and assured in our hands. Book an appointment today to take the next step in managing your ENT health.


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