Hearing loss is quite common and can impact people's lives in profound ways. Although there are some treatments that can improve one's ability to hear and communicate, many people are interested in learning about the ways they may be able to prevent hearing loss in the first place.
Medical experts from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association advise that hearing loss can be caused by different factors. Learning about these causes can help individuals make smart decisions at a young age to prevent future hearing loss when possible. In certain circumstances, hearing loss may be unavoidable. In such instances, audiologists, or doctors specializing in hearing, can help.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss refers to problems with the ear canal, ear drum or middle ear and its bones, states the Hearing Loss Association of America. Some of the causes of conductive hearing loss include:
• Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear in which fluid accumulation can interfere with the movement of the eardrum and ossicles.
• Impacted earwax also can cause hearing problems.
• Fluid in the middle ear may obstruct hearing.
• Otosclerosis, which is a middle ear disease, can make it difficult for the tiny bones in the middle ear to move. Surgery can correct the problem.
• Malformation of the outer ear, ear canal or middle ear structure can impact hearing as well.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL, occurs due to problems of the inner ear. It is often referred to as nerve-related hearing loss.
• Aging is a common cause of hearing loss that may not be reversible. Age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis and is marked by muffled or unclear speech. Treatment with assistive hearing devices can help improve hearing.
• Trauma to the ear or head may impact hearing. Wearing protective gear during sports or other activities can protect against neurological damage that may cause hearing loss.
• Damage to the inner ear can result from prolonged exposure to loud noises, states the Mayo Clinic. These noises cause wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea that send sound signals to the brain. When these hairs or nerve cells are damaged or missing, electrical signals aren't transmitted as efficiently, and hearing loss occurs. Using hearing protection and turning down the volume can help.
• Ménière's disease is an inner ear problem of unknown origins. It usually starts in people between the ages of 30 and 50. Dizziness and ringing of the ear are common, and hearing loss comes and goes. Some loss can become permanent.
• Viruses and diseases as well as family history also may play a role in SNHL.
In some instances, hearing loss may be the result of a combination of factors. Anyone finding their hearing has become less acute should visit with an audiologist. One resource to visit is www.asha.org/profind. The doctor can then prescribe a treatment plan to help improve hearing.