Hearing Loss

Causes and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Generally, hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors including, diseases, infections passed during birth, hereditary causes, head and ear traumas, ototoxic medications, pressure differences, normal aging, and noise exposure. Noise exposure is a common cause of hearing loss which damages the inner hair cells of the cochlea, the snail-like structure in the inner ear. Noise exposure can lead to permanent hearing loss and, in some cases, tinnitus.Tinnitus is a common symptom of hearing loss that is characterized by intermittent or constant ringing in one or both ears. Causes of hearing loss are typically conductive or sensorineural.

Conductive causes of hearing loss include:

  • Earwax build-up in the ear canal
  • Damage to the tiny bones, called ossicles, located behind the eardrum
  • Foreign objects stuck in the ear canal
  • Infectious fluid and scarring in the ear from otitis media
  • Eardrum perforations from ear trauma

Sensorineural causes of hearing loss include:

  • Gradual, age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis
  • Otosclerosis
  • Meniere’s disease and other dizziness and balance problems
  • History of noise exposure
  • Ototoxic medications
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Viruses such as meningitis, mumps, scarlet fever, and measles
  • Genetic factors

People with hearing loss may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Ear pain and pressure
  • Sudden hearing loss
  • Unclear, muffled, or slurred hearing quality
  • Noticeable difference in hearing between both ears
  • Ringing, buzzing, or hissing sound in the ears
  • Loud perception of certain sounds
  • Difficulty understanding speech in groups, crowds, and background noise
  • Trouble hearing the voices of women and children
  • Dizziness or balance issues

Diagnosis and Treatment of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is usually diagnosed by an audiologist. The audiologist will perform a complete audiological evaluation, which will identify the type, degree, and shape of the hearing loss. Tympanometry is performed during the hearing evaluation to assess the movement of the eardrum. Hearing screenings are usually performed in hospitals and schools to identify hearing loss in infants and children. Some cases of hearing loss require additional testing, such as CT or MRI of the head, to identify underlying causes of hearing loss. Many treatment options are available for hearing loss depending on the type, degree, and shape. The audiologist will assess these factors and recommend the most efficient treatment option based on the individual needs of the patient. Hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and aural rehabilitation are non-invasive methods for hearing loss treatment. Some hearing losses require surgical intervention, such as myringotomy, placement of tubes in the eardrum, or tympanoplasty, repair of eardrum perforation. Candidacy for cochlear implantation may also be explored for profound cases of hearing losses.