What can cause hearing loss?
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:
- Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis): This type of hearing 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.
- Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL): Prolonged or repeated exposure to loud noises, such as loud music, machinery, firearms, or construction work, can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. This has been long-associated with work-place noise exposure but there is an increasing amount of leisure-related NIHL being reported.
- Genetic factors: Some forms of hearing loss are caused by genetic abnormalities or inherited conditions. These can be present at birth or develop later in life.
- Ototoxic medications: Certain medications, such as some types of antibiotics (e.g., aminoglycosides), chemotherapy drugs, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can damage the structures of the inner ear and result in hearing loss.
- Traumatic injuries: Severe head trauma or exposure to sudden, loud noises (acoustic trauma) can cause immediate or delayed hearing loss.
- 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.
- Earwax build-up: Accumulation of excessive earwax can block the ear canal and cause temporary hearing loss.
It's important to note that these are just some of the common causes of hearing loss, and there can be other factors or underlying conditions that contribute to hearing loss as well.
What are the 3 types of hearing loss ?
Conductive Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss 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. Conductive hearing loss is often temporary and can be treated medically or surgically.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss 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.
Sensorineural hearing loss 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 options for mixed hearing loss depend on the specific causes and may involve a combination of medical interventions, surgical procedures, and hearing devices.
It's important to note that there can be other variations and classifications of hearing loss, but these three types are commonly recognised and used in the field of audiology.
What are the common signs of hearing loss?
Hearing loss can manifest in various ways and may vary in severity. Here are some common signs and symptoms of hearing loss:
- Difficulty understanding speech: People with hearing loss often have trouble following conversations, especially in noisy environments. They may ask others to repeat themselves or frequently misunderstand what is being said.
- Turning up the volume: If someone consistently increases the volume of the TV or radio to a level that others find too loud, it could indicate hearing loss.
- Withdrawal from social situations: Hearing loss can lead to social isolation or withdrawal from group conversations and activities due to the difficulty in understanding others.
- Frequently asking for repetition: Those with hearing loss may ask others to repeat themselves frequently or ask for clarification. People with hearing loss might confuse similar sounds, such as "th" and "s" or "p" and "t."
- Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds: Hearing loss often affects the ability to hear high-frequency sounds like birds chirping, doorbells, or phone notifications.
- Tinnitus: Some individuals with hearing loss experience tinnitus, a ringing, buzzing, or hissing sound in the ears. This may be constant or intermittent.
- Ear pain or discomfort: In some cases, hearing loss can be accompanied by ear pain, pressure, or a feeling of fullness in the ears.
It's important to note that the presence of one or more of these signs does not necessarily indicate hearing loss, as they can also be caused by other factors.
How hearing loss can affect daily life
Hearing loss can have a significant impact on various aspects of daily life. Here are some ways in which hearing loss can affect individuals:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Social isolation: Hearing loss can lead to social isolation as individuals may withdraw from social situations and avoid gatherings or events where communication is challenging. This isolation can contribute to feelings of loneliness and may impact relationships with friends, family, and loved ones.
- 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.
- Reduced participation: Due to the challenges posed by hearing loss, individuals may participate less in activities they once enjoyed. This can include hobbies, recreational activities, or social events, leading to a decrease in overall engagement and quality of life.
It's important to note that the impact of hearing loss can vary depending on the severity of the condition, the individual's support system, and their ability to access appropriate interventions such as hearing aids or assistive listening devices.
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