What are the Causes of Hearing Loss?
While hearing loss is often associated with old age, in reality, the physical condition can affect people of all ages. It is estimated that close to 15-20% of Americans aged 12 and over experience varying levels of hearing loss in both ears. The percentage of hearing loss among the population doubles with every decade of life, making the condition more commonly spread among older adults. Yet, this doesn’t mean that old age is a detrimental factor to your condition. Indeed, with age comes greater exposure to a variety of risks and diseases that are likely to facilitate hearing loss. If you have noticed a difference in the clarity of sounds, it can be helpful to become familiar with the most common causes of hearing loss and monitor your risk levels.
Excessive exposure to loud noises
You are exposed to sounds on a daily basis, from a normal conversation between colleagues (about 60 dB) to using a leaf blower to clear out your garden (about 80-85 dB). Average sounds rank between 0-60 dB and are unlikely to cause any damage to your inner ear. Audiologists warn against regular exposure to noises from 80 dB and more without protective cover and equipment. Indeed, attempting a live gig, for instance, can be a loud experience that can damage the hair cells inside your ears. Similarly, working in a noisy environment, as it is the case for professionals who work with engines and the stage profession, can affect your hair cells over time.
A localized injury
Lesions in your ear can dramatically affect your hearing. While some injuries and lesions can heal, others have a permanent effect. An audiologist can help you recover from temporary injuries and suggest corrections for permanent issues. The most typical injury tends to occur for patients who use cotton swabs to clean their ears. However, contact sports and ball games can also lead to a variety of head injuries, which, while they may not be severe, can damage your inner ear.
Around one in three adults has high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Unfortunately, only half of the people with hypertension monitor and control their condition. As a result, unmonitored high blood pressure can become a contributing factor in hearing loss. Indeed, hypertension is a condition that affects your blood vessels. The damaged blood vessels inside your ears can impair your hearing abilities. Ideally, people with high blood pressure should consider an appointment with an audiologist, as both conditions are known to go hand-in-hand.
Hearing loss can be the result of a viral infection. Typically, your audiologist wants you to know about two types of viruses, those that cause congenital hearing loss, and those that cause acquired hearing loss after infection. Congenital hearing loss cases affect children. Viral acquired hearing loss, on the other hand, develops at any age. Measles, in places where vaccinations are not widespread, can account for up to 10% of hearing loss cases.
Prolonged diabetes experience
The link between diabetes and hearing loss has been exposed through a variety of studies, including the 2008 National Institutes of Health research published in the Annal of Internal Medicine. A common complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes is nerve damage, which can affect the inner ear. Researchers believe prolonged high blood glucose levels decrease the supply of blood and oxygen to the nerves and vessels of the inner ear. A similar risk affects people with obesity issues, as the circulatory system becomes strained.
According to a Japanese study on the role of smoking in the development of health conditions, 60% of smokers are likely to experience hearing loss. Similar results also affect non-smokers who live with a smoker. Indeed, the presence of nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes lowers oxygen blood levels. When the tiny nerves inside the inner ear are deprived of oxygen, the damage to the hair cells is irremediable. Smoking is also linked to tinnitus and vertigo, which are conditions that appear in the inner ear.
Not all hearing loss cases are permanent. As mentioned above, some lesions can heal over time. Similarly, obstructions are another type of temporary hearing loss that can be removed safely by your audiologist. Earwax buildup is the most common form of obstruction. Foreign objects in the ear canal and abnormal growth in the middle ear – which can be identified and surgically removed – are some of the most frequent causes of conductive hearing loss.
Hearing loss can be triggered by a variety of factors, which don’t always include your age. Indeed, existing medical conditions, exposure to external factors, or even lifestyle choices can affect your hearing. Whether the loss is permanent or temporary, an audiologist can help you to address the issue and regain your hearing health.