Hearing loss can range from mild to significant, short-term to permanent, and unobtrusive to downright painless. Depending on the symptoms, we can identify the cause of hearing loss and determine if it is a temporary occurrence. Here are the top seven most common causes of hearing loss, and how to identify them.
1. Occupational Noise
Have you ever been around heavy, working machinery? Did you notice how your hearing feels after you step away from them after a while? Deafness is one of the hazards of being employed in fields with high noise – traffic, police, ground traffic controllers at airports, industrial workers, and construction workers are very prone to this disorder. Such deafness is gradual and permanent, often making it that much harder to identify.1
2. Air Pressure
Luckily, the loss of hearing we experience due to changes in air pressure, such as in an airplane or on the mountaintop, is temporary.2 They can be quite painful though. To prevent this, you can try swallowing something, or if the pain persists, blowing out with both your mouth and nose closed tightly.
3. Bacterial Meningitis
Bacterial meningitis is a permanent condition that affects the auditory nerve. Unfortunately, there is no way to recover an injured nerve. Hearing aids may also be only of limited assistance.3
Ageing is the most dominant cause of gradual hearing loss. Many elderly people may not even realize that they are unable to hear until the problem gets very serious. Frequent checkups are necessary. Age-related hearing loss often comes with no other observable symptoms.4
Some potent antibiotics used to treat systemic infections cause severe oxidative stress in the inner ear, resulting in an acute hearing loss.5 Like many other conditions involving hearing, this one comes with no symptoms. Doctors administering this medication always look out for signs of hearing loss.
Cancer of the nasopharyngeal region may in of itself cause hearing loss. Furthermore, chemotherapy and radiation used to treat these cancers can also cause hearing losses.6 Hearing loss is studied individually and there is no established threshold beyond which it can occur. Onset is often quite sudden.
Tinnitus is the term given to the sound of chiming bells you experience in your ears sometimes. The most common cause is chronic exposure to loud sounds. This includes everything from firecrackers to rock concerts. Depending on the level and duration of exposure, the hearing loss can be short and severe, or gradual and permanent. The characteristic sign is usually – a ringing in the ears.7
We may not realize it, but even everyday sounds of traffic can make us deaf over time. It is important to muffle our ears when the noises are too loud, get hearing tests done, protect the ears with proper care and reduce nouse exposure as much as possible.
|↑1||Azizi, Mohammad Hossein. “Occupational noise-induced hearing loss.” The international journal of occupational and environmental medicine 1, no. 3 July (2010).|
|↑2||Margolis, Robert H., George L. Saly, and Lisa L. Hunter. “High-frequency hearing loss and wideband middle ear impedance in children with otitis media histories.” Ear and hearing 21, no. 3 (2000): 206-211.|
|↑3||Berlow, Susan J., David D. Caldarelli, Gregory J. Matz, Dianne H. Meyer, and Gail G. Harsch. “Bacterial meningitis and sensorineural hearing loss: a prospective investigation.” The Laryngoscope 90, no. 9 (1980): 1445-1452.|
|↑4||Nadol Jr, Joseph B. “Hearing loss.” New England Journal of Medicine 329, no. 15 (1993): 1092-1102.|
|↑5||Schacht, Jochen, Andra E. Talaska, and Leonard P. Rybak. “Cisplatin and aminoglycoside antibiotics: hearing loss and its prevention.” The anatomical record 295, no. 11 (2012): 1837-1850.|
|↑6||Honoré, Henriette B., Søren M. Bentzen, Kitty Møller, and Cai Grau. “Sensori-neural hearing loss after radiotherapy for nasopharyngeal carcinoma: individualized risk estimation.” Radiotherapy and oncology 65, no. 1 (2002): 9-16.|
|↑7||Evans, E. F., J. P. Wilson, and T. A. Borerwe. “Animal models of tinnitus.” Tinnitus (1981): 108-148.|