What Causes Hearing Loss & How to Prevent It?
Hearing loss can be caused by many things throughout your life. Some of the most common causes of hearing loss can be prevented by wearing custom ear protection or reducing your exposure to the noise.
Read our guide to the causes of hearing loss and how to prevent it below. If you think you already have hearing loss, you can contact us at any time to schedule a hearing test appointment.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
There are many potential causes and risk factors that can contribute to your hearing loss. Some are more common than others, but they are likely not the only reasons why you experience hearing loss throughout your life. Here are the more common causes that might affect you:
Also known as age-related hearing loss, Presbycusis is the most common type of hearing loss that is caused by the natural aging of the auditory system. This is where the auditory nerves become degraded and lead to sensorineural hearing loss — you can read more about it and other types of hearing loss here.
Presbycusis affects 1 in 3 people by the age of 65, and 1 in 2 people by the age of 75, making it the second most common chronic health condition among seniors.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Exposure to loud noises in the workplace and recreational can lead to ear damage and can cause hearing loss overtime. If you are exposed to an extremely loud sound, like an explosion, it can cause immediate hearing loss.
Infection & illness
If you are exposed to an extremely loud sound, like an explosion, it can cause immediate hearing loss. It can also be caused by an accumulation of consistent exposure to loud noise levels over a longer period of time. Loud noises can also lead to hearing disorders such as tinnitus.
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Genetics, Heredity & Family History
Hereditary hearing loss can be present at birth, or it may develop and progress throughout your life. It can be a direct issue that causes hearing loss or deafness, or it can be a general genetic makeup that may make you more susceptible to ear damage and hearing loss. It may also be a genetic predisposition to health issues that are more likely to result in hearing loss — such as diabetes.
Infection & Illness
Many illnesses and infections that result in a high fever may lead to hearing damage in the cochlea. Although not a full list, the most common infectious diseases that can lead to hearing loss are measles, mumps, meningitis, chicken pox, shingles and influenza.
People who have diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss as those who don’t have diabetes. It isn’t clear what contributes to the hearing loss in people with diabetes, but it is known that high blood sugar can cause damage to blood vessels, including the vessels in your ear.
Injury & Trauma
A traumatic brain injury, damage to the ear, or a hole in the eardrum can lead to hearing loss. This can be caused either by physical damage to your ear and the biological mechanisms that are required for hearing, from something like concussive pressure causing damage to your ear, or damage to your brain that prevents it from receiving auditory signals.
There are some medications that may increase your risk of hearing loss. Some of the medications that may impact your ability to hear include:
- Aminoglycoside antibiotics, such as streptomycin, neomycin, or kanamycin
- Large amounts of aspirin
- Loop diuretics, like lasix or ethacrynic acid
- Certain chemotherapy drugs
If you have any concerns about the medication you take possibly causing hearing loss, we advise you to consult your doctor. This is especially true if you have other risk factors for hearing loss mentioned throughout this guide.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss
It can be difficult, or impossible, to avoid all the causes and risk factors mentioned above. However, it is a good idea to learn how you can prevent hearing loss so that you maintain optimal hearing health throughout your life. You may be able to hold off hearing loss for longer than you would otherwise or prevent it from becoming more severe.
Here are some things you can do to help prevent hearing loss:
- If the sound level at work exceeds 85 dB, reduce the noise level or wear hearing protection.
- Lower the volume of your television, stereo and phone.
- Be careful not to turn up your car stereo volume too loudly to compensate for noise from the engine.
- Wear custom ear plugs if you go to rock concerts or nightclubs, and don’t stand near loudspeakers.
- Wear noise-cancelling headphones if using noisy equipment.
- Stay fit and healthy with exercise and diet to avoid any health conditions or medications that can cause hearing loss
It is always better to detect hearing loss early, so you can get it treated and correct whatever risk factor in your life is contributing to your diminished hearing. That’s why, if you are showing signs of hearing loss, we recommend that you get your hearing tested annually.