What Causes Hearing Loss?

What Causes Hearing Loss?

In Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Causes by exceptional

Hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions that people live with today. An estimated 1 in 8 people have some degree of impaired hearing! You or a loved one may experience changes to your hearing health over time – but what exactly causes hearing loss and what can you do about it?

  • Aging: the risk of developing age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, increases with age. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD): 
  • 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have some degree of hearing loss
  • 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss.

There are several factors that can contribute to age related hearing loss. This includes: changes to the ears that may be experienced over time, the cumulative toll of loud noise exposure, and existing medical conditions. There are various types of medical conditions that older adults are more likely to experience and these conditions can increase the risk of developing hearing loss. 

  • Loud noise: one time or regular exposure to loud noise can cause noise induced hearing loss. Millions of people are regularly exposed to loud noise, according to the Hearing Health Foundation: 
  • 30 million people are exposed to hazardous noise levels regularly. 
  • 22 million people work in environments that contain noise levels that are dangerous for hearing health. 

Loud noise can permanently damage the sensory cells that are in the inner ear. There are thousands of these cells in the cochlea and they play a critical role in how sound is absorbed and processed. When they are damaged, the brain can receive less auditory information which produces hearing loss.

  • Head injuries: according to the CDC, over 3 million head injuries occur every year. Head injuries are commonly caused by falls, car or bike accidents, sports related injuries etc. Head injuries include concussions which are more mild as well as traumatic brain injuries (TBI) which are the most severe type of head injury. One in three head injuries is a  traumatic brain injury. Head injuries can cause hearing loss in several ways including: breaking or rupturing the ossicles (three connected bones in the middle ear), damaging sensory cells in the inner ear, rupturing the eardrum, and constricting blood flow to the ears. This prevents these components from performing their essential functions which causes hearing loss. 
  • Medical conditions: extensive research shows that numerous medical conditions can increase the risk of developing hearing loss. This includes the following: 
  • Cardiovascular disease: studies show that heart disease and hearing loss are linked. Heart disease involves blood vessel damage that results from hypertension, high cholesterol, or narrowed arteries. This can produce blockages or ruptures of vessels which contribute to heart attacks and strokes. Blood vessel damage also affects blood flow throughout the body including in the ears, impacting the absorption and processing of sound. 
  • Diabetes: this condition involves an excess of sugar (or glucose) in the bloodstream which increases health risks. It can damage blood vessels, nerves, restrict blood flow etc. This can damage sensory cells in the inner ear, reducing their capacity to effectively and efficiently process soundwaves. 
  • Osteoporosis: another medical condition that can affect hearing health is osteoporosis. This condition involves the new bone tissue and regeneration being slowed down which produces lower bone mass. This weakens bones, making them increasingly vulnerable to breakage. This can affect the bones in the middle ear (ossicles) which help propel soundwaves further into the ear. 

These medical conditions often impact older adults disproportionately which contributes to their increased risk of developing hearing loss. 

How to Prioritize Your Hearing Health

There are important and effective ways you can protect your hearing health. A few tips to practice include: 

  • Wear hearing protection: this includes items like headphones, earbuds, and ear plugs which protect the ears and reduce the amount of loud noise you absorb. 
  • Prioritize care for medical conditions: if you have existing medical conditions, be sure to prioritize care for them. This includes taking prescribed medications, following regimens outlined by your doctor, attending follow-up appointments etc. 
  • Get hearing tested regularly: getting your hearing tested regularly allows you to track your hearing health. This makes it easier to identify any changes you may experience over time, supporting early intervention. 

Contact us today to learn more and to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation!