What is acquired hearing loss? Congenital hearing loss is present before you come out of the womb. Any hearing loss that may have incurred since the day you were born is considered acquired. There are several different causes of acquired hearing loss which range from conductive- meaning a blockage in the ear canal which prevents sound from entering, to sensorineural- which denotes damage to the cells of the inner ear which deliver sound to the brain. Knowing the causes of acquired hearing loss can help you better protect your ears every day and what to do if you experience acquired hearing loss. Here are just a few common causes of acquired hearing loss:
Conductive hearing loss
When something is blocking your ear, it can cause temporary hearing loss until the blockage recedes or is removed by a licensed medical practitioner. Common causes of conductive acquired hearing loss include:
Infection: When infection traps fluid against the walls of the Eustachian tube it can create enough pressure to close the ear canal and cause some hearing loss. As soon as the fluid recedes on its own or with the aid of antibiotics, it’s likely that hearing will return to normal
Earwax Blockage: Earwax is important stuff for the health of your ears, helping to keep dirt out and fight infection, but there can be too much of a good thing. Too much earwax can make it hard to hear. Try mineral drops to loosen earwax and then take a hot shower. Most will come out with a soft washcloth in the exterior of your ear.
Tumors or Abnormal Bone Growths: When tumors or abnormal bone growths form, they can block sound. These are most often surgically removed to allow for hearing to return to normal.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is damage to the tiny cells of the inner ear which transform audio waves into electrical impulses and are sent to your brain for processing. When interruption occurs due to irreversible damage sound can’t reach the brain causing lifelong hearing loss. It’s important to know the causes of sensorineural hearing damage because once it occurs, while there are treatments, there is no cure. Some common causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:
Loud Noises: One of the most common causes of hearing loss is exposure to noises which surpass a safe listening threshold. The human ear can withstand sound levels of 85 decibels (dBA) for up to eight hours before the vibrations become loud enough to bend or break the stereocilia. As the sound level rises the time it takes for damage to occur gets shorter. Be aware of the noise level around you and be sure to wear your hearing protection!
Presbycusis: You can’t control aging, but you can manage it. Presbycusis is age related hearing loss and is incredibly common affecting one in three, 65 and older as well as one in two past the age of 75 and up. It occurs due to changes in blood flow and the ear, common with age. However, by staying active, eating well and protecting your hearing you can reduce the impact to your ears for years to come.
Head Trauma: When you get hit in the head during an accident such as contact sports, a car accident, skate board accident or any other unexpected time it can cause concussion, tinnitus, and hearing loss. While sometimes the damage is conductive affecting the eardrum or ossicles often it can affect the cochlea and stereocilia as well.
Disease: Several diseases and viruses can affect your hearing including meningitis and chickenpox, measles, mumps jaundice, and in some instances COVID-19. Boosting your immune system is the best you can do and make sure to get available vaccines when you can.
Ototoxic Chemicals: There are at least 450 recognized over the counter and prescription drugs recognized by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which can cause hearing loss. However other sources of chemical exposure can be at work, or from environmental toxins. Use an air purifier when you can inside your home on poor air quality days and be aware of all the medications you are taking.
Treating Hearing Loss
While sensorineural hearing loss can’t be reversed hearing aids can often help make it easier to communicate. Contact us today to schedule a hearing exam and find out more.