Common causes of hearing loss: a brief guide

As one of our main forms of contact with the outside world, our hearing plays a much bigger role in our lives than perhaps we give it credit for. For those suffering a loss of this sense can be put at a severe disadvantage in the modern world where sounds and noise are responsible for more than we appreciate.

The problems associated with hearing loss are expansive but thanks to the sheer amount of modern research and treatments available, they are usually easily identifiable, and in many cases, immediately treatable. If you suffer from reduced, impaired or extensive hearing loss, help could be at hand faster than you think.

Many common hearing problems require nothing more than simple treatment to restore it whilst others require more complex investigations. Below is a guide to the most common causes of hearing impairment.

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is an impairment of the ability of sound waves to move through the ear. This is most commonly caused by either a blockage or disruption to the ear due to a physical problem.

Below are a few common examples of why you may suffer from conductive hearing problems:

1 – Wax

A significant build-up of earwax in the eardrum can have a profound effect on an individual’s hearing over time. Imagine the difference between trying to talk to someone behind a closed door compared to face-to-face as this is essentially the effect that a build up of wax in the ear canal creates. Being one of the most common causes of hearing impairment, it is also the easiest to treat.

2 – Perforated tympanic membrane

A perforation of the tympanic membrane causes a large amount of fluid to build up in the middle ear and thusly dampens the ability for sound waves to move through the eardrum, causing a similar effect that of excessive earwax but with greater severity.

This is usually the result of a physical trauma that could have been caused by anything such as a cotton bud, a finger put into the ear, an infection or as the result of an extremely loud noise. The condition can be treated via a variety of means depending on the nature and severity of the problem.

Sensoneurinal hearing loss

A great deal more serious that conductive hearing loss, this is caused by damage sustained to the hair cells or nerve endings that sense sound waves. A list of common causes are provided below:

1 – Acoustic trauma

Prolonged exposure to loud noises and uncomfortable frequencies can cause the ear’s sensitive hair cells around the cochlea to become gradually desensitised. Effectively, they are being blasted by sound on a daily basis and this can result in damage.

2 – Barotrauma

This is when ears are subjected to “squeezing” which is caused by rapidly increasing or decreasing amounts of pressure. The effect is similar (although greatly intensified) to the sensation you feel when in an aircraft during takeoff or and landing.

3 – Head injuries

A trauma to the head can cause significant damage to the temporal bone. The temporal bone sits along the mandible and side of the jaw and is connected via nerves and ligaments to the skull. In some cases it can become damaged and come to lean against parts of the inner ear.