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According to the World Health Organization, hearing loss affects over 460 million people worldwide. Out of the affected, 34 million are children. Many of the top reasons for hearing loss can be prevented in children. The statistics will only continue to rise—by 2050, the WHO projects there to be more than 900 million people with hearing loss.
Hearing loss disrupts everyday life for those affected. It makes communicating with loved ones, coworkers, and strangers a struggle. Furthermore, it may seem difficult to participate in social activities. Often, hearing loss brings feelings of loneliness, frustration, and isolation. Those with hearing-related issues may feel self-conscious about their condition which can lead to depressive symptoms, anxiety, and chronic stress.
Hearing loss is a condition that deserves the attention of professionals and the public. Not only does it affect individuals physically and psychologically, but it costs the world over $750 billion annually. The sources of the cost vary from treatments, education, and various societal costs. Additionally, those with hearing loss in the workforce may be less productive than those without hearing loss, thus contributing to the value.
Hearing loss is defined as not being capable of hearing the minimum threshold of 25dB in both ears. The result is difficulty in understanding communication, and often, delayed spoken communication. Many adverse effects can occur as a result of developing hearing-related issues.
- 1 Types of Hearing Loss
- 2 Reasons for Hearing Loss in Children
- 3 Reasons for Hearing Loss in Adults
- 4 Reasons for Hearing Loss in the Elderly
- 5 FAQ
Types of Hearing Loss
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is not a complete hearing loss. It’s more of a mild form of hearing loss that can typically be treated by audiologists. Some of the reasons for conductive hearing loss include:
- Fluid in the ear
- Ear infections
- A hole in the eardrum
- Buildup of earwax
- Swimmer’s ear
- Malformation of the outer or middle ear
- Otosclerosis—a bone in the middle ear, often the stapes, cannot vibrate properly due to abnormal growth or else which prohibits sound travel
- Another substance/object stuck in the outer ear
A trend is evident in the above causes—conductive hearing loss occurs due to obstruction of sound getting through to the inner ear. The above events make it hard to hear quiet sounds and determine where sounds come from. These causes can often be one of the reasons for hearing loss in one ear, as an infection or object may occur in only one ear. Conductive hearing loss also makes normal or loud sounds seem muffled or unclear. Typically, conductive hearing loss can be treated by surgery, medication, or general doctoral assistance by cleaning out the ear or removing any objects.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Commonly referred to as Sudden Deafness, this condition occurs quickly. It can happen in an instant or over a few days, depending on the severity of the cause. SSHL is caused by damage to the nerve pathway between the ear and brain or damage to the cochlea, a part of the inner ear. Reasons for sudden hearing loss in one ear, unilateral SSHL, often goes undiagnosed. However, bilateral SSHL, both ear hearing loss, has many common causes doctors can diagnose.
Some of the common causes include:
- Head trauma
- Extremely loud noise, like an explosion
- Autoimmune disease
- Infection due to various drugs
- Blood circulation problems
- Neurological disorders
- Blood vessel dilation
- Abnormal tissue growth
- Meniere disease— a disease of the inner ear that can cause dizziness and ringing sensations;
- Lyme disease
- Ototoxic medications
If you experience sudden deafness or sudden partial loss of hearing, you should immediately seek attention. Delaying treatment may result in decreased effectiveness of treatment. With proper attention, hearing can be restored over time.
In fact, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about half of those who experience sudden deafness retain their hearing.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of the above two, sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. The hearing loss may come suddenly or gradually develop over time. A variety of factors, already listed under both conditions above, may cause mixed hearing loss.
Mixed hearing loss can occur in one or both ears, which only adds to the troublesome nature of the condition. If you begin to experience hearing-related issues, its important to see a doctor as soon as possible.
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Reasons for Hearing Loss in Children
Children experience hearing loss from a variety of sources such as environmental causes or birth-related issues. The World Health Organization predicts that more than half of hearing loss in children can be prevented by precautionary, public health interventions. Many of the common reasons for loss of hearing result from having prior health complications.
Children who develop hearing loss often do so from infections, which also happen to be one of the reasons for sudden hearing loss. A complete list of reasons for hearing loss in babies and children is listed below.
- Otis Media—the most common cause of hearing loss in children; it’s a condition caused by inflammation in the inner ear that often results in a buildup of fluid
- Congenital Factors
- Genetic factors/syndromes
- Down syndrome
- Usher syndrome
- Crouzon syndrome
- Alport Syndrome
- Treacher Collins syndrome
- Lack of oxygen
- Rh factor complications
- Toxemia during pregnancy
- Herpes simplex virus
- Genetic factors/syndromes
- Various Environmental Factors
- Ear infections— swimmer’s ear
- Chicken Pox
- Head Injury
- Ototoxic drugs
- Excessive loud noise exposure
Reasons for Hearing Loss in Adults
Hearing loss in adults is becoming increasingly more common. A very common worry of adults is the occurrence of tinnitus. However, tinnitus is simply a symptom of hearing loss, not a disease. If you or someone you know is experiencing prolonged tinnitus, it’s important to seek medical attention to determine the cause and see if treatment is possible.
The reasons for hearing loss in adults are long and diverse, as adults experience both sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss often. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, noise-induced hearing loss is the most common cause of hearing loss in adults.
Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when environmental sounds damage ears. The sounds can be short and sharp, or they may be long-lasting and loud. Both are harmful enough to cause permanent damage. Unfortunately, all groups of people are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Adults seem to be the most common group due to active and diverse lifestyles.
Recreational activities such as target shooting, motorized vehicle riding, playing in a band, attending loud concerts often, war, or listening to music with headphones at high volumes are all potential causes. It’s important to protect your ears while load activities.
Some of the other common causes of hearing loss in adults include the following.
- High blood pressure
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Heart conditions
- Traumatic brain injury
- Tumor development
- Ototoxic medications
- Damage to the inner ear or eardrum— sticking cotton swabs or other objects inside the ear can rupture the eardrum or cause other damage
Reasons for Hearing Loss in the Elderly
The elderly are the most affected group of people when it comes to hearing loss. With aging, health complications naturally arise. Hearing loss seems to be one of those, according to the statistics. The National Institute of Health has found that nearly one in three individuals between the ages of 65 and 75 have hearing loss. For those 75 and older, almost half of the population has hearing loss. The statistics may even be skewed, as often, people do not seek help for hearing loss.
Hearing loss, especially in the elderly, can get worse over time when left untreated. A study in the National Library of Medicine has found that individuals with hearing loss have a higher chance of developing dementia than older adults without hearing-related issues.
The most common cause of hearing loss in the elderly is known as presbycusis or age-related hearing loss. Over time, hearing ability gradually degrades until hearing loss seems normal. Age-related hearing loss often goes undiagnosed as individuals affected may not realize they’re affected due to the gradual onset of the condition.
Presbycusis occurs over time due to the natural decline of the health of hair cells in the inner ear. Additionally, nerve pathways between the ears and brain may degenerate. Usually, in this case doctor can advice to use hearing aids for eldery people.
Other common causes of hearing loss in the elderly can be seen below.
- Loud noises over time that may contribute to presbycusis
- Damage to the inner ear
- Tumor development
- Ototoxic medications
- Heart disease
Q: What is the most common reason for hearing loss?
A. Presbycusis is the most common cause of hearing loss. However, the condition itself can be caused by various factors, thus making it difficult to pinpoint the direct causes of each case of the condition.
A. Age-related hearing loss occurs over time due to the degradation of hair cells, damage of nerve pathways, or changes in the shape of the inner ear or middle ear. Other
Q: What are the reasons for hearing loss in young adults who are generally healthy?
A. Most often, young adults experience hearing loss due to damage to the inner ear from exposure to loud noises. The injury may be sudden or from consistent exposure.
Q: What do I do if I think I’m experiencing hearing loss?
A. If you or someone you know is experiencing hearing loss, seek medical attention. You may seek out your primary care doctor or an ENT specialist.