Hearing loss: The causes and symptoms

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Written by Amplivox

The main cause of hearing loss can vary depending on the type and nature of the hearing loss. Here are some of the most common causes:

  1. Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis): This type of loss occurs gradually over time and is a result of the natural aging process. It is often associated with the loss of sensory hair cells in the inner ear.
  2. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL): Prolonged or repeated exposure to loud noises can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear. Background noise; specifically noise in the workplace is often associated with this. However, there is an increasing number of reports of this happening during leisure activities. These activities include listening to loud music, operating machinery, shooting guns, or doing construction work.
  3. Genetic factors: Genetic abnormalities or inherited conditions cause some forms of hearing loss. These can be present at birth or develop later in life.
  4. Ototoxic medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics (e.g., aminoglycosides), chemotherapy drugs, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can damage the structures of the inner ear and result in loss of hearing.
  5. Traumatic injuries: Severe head trauma or exposure to sudden, loud noises (acoustic trauma) can cause immediate or delayed loss of hearing.
  6. Infections and diseases: Infections such as meningitis, mumps, and measles, as well as certain diseases like Ménière's disease, autoimmune inner ear disease, and otosclerosis, can lead to varying degrees of hearing loss.
  7. Earwax build-up: The acccumulation of excessive earwax can block the ear canal and cause temporary hearing loss. These are some common causes of hearing loss, but there may be other factors or conditions that also contribute to it.


There are 3 main types of hearing loss commonly recognised and used in the field of audiology. It's important to note that there can be other variations and classifications of hearing loss also.

Conductive Hearing Loss

This occurs when there is a problem in the outer or middle ear that prevents sound from being conducted effectively to the inner ear. Common causes of conductive hearing loss include earwax blockage, middle ear infections, fluid build-up, perforated eardrum, or abnormalities in the ear structure. Medication or surgery can often treat conductive hearing loss, which is often temporary.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common and is caused by damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve pathways. It typically occurs when the hair cells in the cochlea (a spiral-shaped structure in the inner ear) are damaged or the auditory nerve is impaired. 

It can result from aging (presbycusis), prolonged exposure to loud noises, certain medications, infections, head trauma, genetic factors, or other medical conditions. It is often permanent, but hearing aids or cochlear implants can help improve hearing in many cases.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss refers to a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. It means that there is a problem in both the outer or middle ear and the inner ear or auditory nerve. 

For example, a person with mixed hearing loss may have an existing sensorineural hearing loss and develop a conductive component due to an additional condition, infection, or injury. Treatment for this depends on the causes and may include medical interventions, surgeries, and hearing devices.


Loss of hearing can manifest in various ways and may vary in severity. Here are some common signs and symptoms of hearing loss:

  1. Difficulty understanding speech: People with reduced hearing often have trouble following conversations, especially in noisy environments. They may request others to repeat themselves or often misunderstand what others are saying. They may also confuse similar sounds, such as "th" and "s" or "p" and "t."
  2. Turning up the volume: If someone always turns up the TV or radio too loud, it might mean they have trouble hearing.
  3. Withdrawal from social situations: Loss of hearing can lead to social isolation or withdrawal from group conversations and activities due to the difficulty in understanding others.
  4. Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds: Hearing loss often affects the ability to hear high-frequency sounds like birds chirping, doorbells, or phone notifications.
  5. Tinnitus: Some individuals may also experience tinnitus (a ringing in the ears). This may be constant or intermittent.
  6. Ear pain or discomfort: In some cases, ear pain, pressure, or a feeling of fullness in the ears may accompany hearing loss.

Additionally, the presence of one or more of these signs does not necessarily indicate hearing loss, as there can be other factors.  


Loss of hearing can have a significant impact on various aspects of daily life. Here are some ways in which it can affect individuals:

  1. Communication difficulties: Hearing loss makes it challenging to understand speech and other sounds, especially in noisy environments. Conversations become more challenging, and individuals may struggle to hear and follow conversations, leading to misunderstandings and social isolation.
  2. Emotional impact: Hearing loss can lead to emotional consequences such as frustration, stress, anxiety, and depression. The struggle to communicate and engage with others can result in feelings of loneliness, low self-esteem, and a reduced quality of life.
  3. Professional challenges: In the workplace, hearing loss can hinder effective communication, affecting job performance, productivity, and career advancement. It may become difficult to participate in meetings, conferences, and phone conversations, leading to misunderstandings and potential professional limitations.
  4. Safety concerns: Individuals with hearing loss may have difficulty hearing warning signals, alarms, or approaching vehicles, which can compromise their safety. They might also be less aware of their surroundings, increasing the risk of accidents.
  5. Social isolation: People with hearing loss can often feel alone as they may avoid social situations and events where communication is difficult. This isolation can contribute to feelings of loneliness and may impact relationships with friends, family, and loved ones.
  6. Cognitive strain: Straining to hear and understand conversations can be mentally exhausting for individuals with hearing loss. This additional cognitive load can impact concentration, memory, and overall cognitive abilities.
  7. Reduced participation: Due to the challenges posed by hearing loss, individuals may participate less in activities they once enjoyed. This can include hobbies, fun activities, or group events, resulting in less involvement and lower quality of life.

It's important to note that the impact can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Having a good support system and being able to use hearing aids or other devices can also be important. 

Seeking professional help, utilising hearing aids, and employing communication strategies can significantly improve the daily lives of individuals with hearing loss. 


It’s important that hearing function is routinely assessed to identify where hearing loss exists. This can be applied via a screening audiometer in the community, occupational health hearing assessment or visiting a local doctor or audiologist for a hearing check-up. 

Our extensive range of dependable, accurate and PC-based screening audiometers are portable and easy-to-use, providing a customised and flexible mobile or static solution. As well as providing hearing screening and data management tailored to the user’s specific requirements, guaranteeing accurate and efficient testing.

In addition, it is essential to ensure a thorough diagnosis of the cause and type of hearing loss before being able to select the right treatment. We have developed a suite of innovative and user-friendly diagnostic audiometers which perform a wide range of hearing loss tests, including AC, BC, speech and special tests: ABLB, Stenger, SISI, Tone decay, HLS, MHA.

For more information about our audiometers, visit our audiometers webpage, contact our customer support team on +44 (0)1865 880 846 or email.



1Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). Types and causes of hearing loss and deafness. Accessible at: https://rnid.org.uk/information-and-support/hearing-loss/types-of-hearing-loss-and-deafness/

2NHS (6th Dec 2021) Hearing Loss. Accessible at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hearing-loss/

3World Health Organization (WHO). Deafness and Hearing Loss. Accessible at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/hearing-loss#:~:text=Prevention-,Overview,affect%20one%20or%20both%20ears

"About the author:"