Let us explore some of the factors that can lead to hearing loss.
What causes hearing loss?
The types of hearing loss, based on the mechanism and site involved are:
- Conductive Hearing Loss - occurs when the sounds are not able to travel from the outer ear to the inner ear, due to problem in the outer ear canal, the eardrum, or connecting bones in the middle ear. The causes may include:
- Ear infections (of the External ear and middle ear)
- Allergies of the ear canal skin
- Swimmer’s ear
- Impaction of wax in the External ear
- Problems with the hearing bones or their dislocation
- Problems with the eardrum
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss - occurs when the inner ear which houses the nerves that pick up the sound and transmit it to the brain is affected and the conduction system is normal. The causes may include:
- Congenital or birth defects
- Aging (Presbycusis)
- Exposure to loud noises (usually over time, but a sudden loud noise can also cause sudden hearing loss)
- Injury or trauma
- Meniere’s disease (usually between the ages of 30 to 50)
- Acoustic neuroma (Tumor of the nerve)
- High fever due to Meningitis
- Ototoxic drugs
- Hearing loss due to infections such as:
- Scarlet fever
- Hearing loss as a side effect of ototoxic medications - There are over 200 medications available presently that can lead to hearing loss. If you are taking medication for heart conditions, cancer, or serious infections, do consult your doctor if you experience even a mild loss of hearing.
What are the degrees of hearing loss?
- Mild hearing loss - able to hear some speech sounds, but difficulty with soft sounds
- Moderate hearing loss - struggles to hear/understand speech in a normal conversation
- Severe hearing loss - you are unable to hear almost no speech at normal levels of conversation and can hear loud sounds
- Profound hearing loss - No speech at all and may only be able to hear very loud sounds
What are the risk factors for developing hearing loss?
- Increasing age - degeneration occurs to the inner ear structures over time
- Exposure to loud environments over time - in professional or recreational settings
- Genetics - Genetic makeup may make someone more susceptible to hearing loss
- Some common medications like Gentamycin, Streptomycin and Sildenafil (Viagra) can affect the inner ear
- Having an untreated high fever can damage the cochlea or inner ear especially in children.
What can you do to protect yourself from hearing loss?
- Protect your ears from loud environments with earmuffs or earplugs
- If you work in a noisy environment, keep getting your hearing tested periodically
- Take breaks from loud noise environments regularly
- Always get medical care for very high fever
- Do not self-prescribe medication
- Keep your BP and sugar levels under control
- Do not neglect ear infections, get it treated prompty