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What are some main causes of hearing loss?

Thursday, October 6th

What Are Some Main Causes of Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is a serious matter that unfortunately affects millions of people in the United States. In fact, it is estimated that approximately one out of every eight people who are over the age of 12 have some degree of hearing loss. Some people are born with hearing loss, but it develops over time in others. Hearing loss may be short-term or permanent, depending on the cause.

If you have noticed difficulty hearing some sounds or tones, it is important to get screened for hearing loss as soon as possible. Hearing plays a role in everything from socialization to personal safety. There are various strategies available for coping with hearing loss, including the use of hearing aids that can conveniently be ordered online. Before you get screened for hearing loss, however, you may be wondering what some of the more common causes are.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

You may notice one or more signs of hearing loss, depending on the severity and the cause of the loss. While it is common for people to have hearing loss in both ears, there are many instances when the loss is present or more pronounced in one ear. For some people who are struggling with hearing loss, discerning the difference between various consonants is challenging. In some cases, it may be more difficult to hear words or sounds when background noise is present. Some people may be challenged to hear certain tones, and others may find that all sounds are generally muffled and difficult to hear regardless of the setting.

If you struggle with hearing loss, you may find yourself turning up the TV or radio volume higher than what other people may find necessary. You may also regularly ask other people to speak more loudly or to repeat what they just said. Because of how challenging it may be to hear or understand what other people are saying, you may increasingly avoid engaging in conversations with others. Depending on the type and severity of hearing loss, you could also steer clear of different types of social settings and situations.

A Buildup of Ear Wax

If you are like most people, you regularly clean the wax from your years. With this in mind, you may think that ear wax would not be a cause of your hearing loss. In reality, excessive ear wax can build up in the canal, and it can prevent sound vibrations from reaching the eardrum.

Ear wax is a natural secretion that is produced in small amounts each day. Its purpose is to protect the ear from infections, water damage, foreign objects and more. Ear wax can become impacted, such as with improper cleaning techniques or with the regular use of swimmer's ear plugs or earbuds. In addition, ear wax may naturally become firmer with age, so you may be more likely to have impacted or excessive ear wax if you are older. Some health conditions may also cause excessive wax production or slow wax drainage. Some of these are swimmer's ear, chronic inflammation, lupus and other autoimmune disorders and even bony blockages.

You may be aware that you have excessive ear wax buildup, such as through an itchy or clogged feeling in one or both ears. In some cases, your doctor may inform you of the buildup during an appointment. Keep in mind, however, that excessive ear wax can be present even if you are not aware of the signs. The good news is that the problem may be relatively easy to address. For example, your doctor may be able to use a special extraction tool or a flushing technique to remove the wax. As a result, your hearing could be restored fully after an in-office treatment.

Disorders and Health Conditions

Many types of health conditions and disorders can result in hearing loss. Perhaps the most common of these conditions is allergies. Allergies can cause mild inflammation in the inner, outer, and middle sections of the year, but this inflammation will subside once the allergies have been alleviated. Ear infections are also common causes of short-term hearing loss, and the loss may subside upon treatment.

However, there are other conditions that may result in longer-term or even permanent hearing loss. For example, both benign and malignant tumors can impact hearing. Otosclerosis is also common, and it is characterized by abnormal bone growth in the ear. Even sexually transmitted diseases, meningitis and illnesses that cause a high fever can result in hearing loss. You should also be aware that some medications that are used to treat seemingly unrelated conditions can cause hearing loss. For example, Viagra, some chemotherapy drugs and even some types of antibiotics can impact your ability to hear clearly.

Some genetic disorders can impact hearing from birth. However, other genetic disorders may make you more susceptible to developing hearing loss later in life. If your parents or older siblings have diminished hearing that seemingly developed with age, you may be more likely to experience this type of age-related loss as well.


While it can affect people of all ages, hearing loss is most common in adults who 60 years old or older. Age-related hearing loss is also known as presbycusis. Notably, presbycusis impacts as many as half of adults who are 75 years old or older.

Over time, there may be changes to the auditory nerve and the inner ear that impact the ability to hear clearly. Age-related changes like these generally occur very slowly over time. Because of the slow pace of degeneration, many people who have this type of hearing loss may not be aware of it unless someone else points it out to them. Usually, age-related hearing loss impacts both ears equally. Tinnitus may accompany the hearing loss in some people who are affected by prebycusis.

It is important to note that various parts of the ear may be damaged over the years, and this may be another reason why older adults often struggle with hearing loss. For example, repeated exposure to loud sounds over a lifetime can result in permanent damage. Even regularly listening to the TV at a high volume over a prolonged period of time can impact hearing. Some health conditions that commonly affect older adults may also impact hearing, including diabetes and high blood pressure. Because of these factors, genetics, natural deterioration, and other factors may combine to affect the ability to hear well in a person's later years.

A Ruptured Eardrum

Another common cause of hearing loss is a ruptured eardrum. More specifically, this is a tear or puncture in the tympanic membrane. This membrane senses sound vibrations. It is located between the outer and middle ears, and it also serves to protect the inner ear and middle ear from damage related to water, infection and more. Approximately 200,000 people in the United States are afflicted by a ruptured eardrum annually. Frequent ear infections, pressure changes and even loud sounds are some of the causes of a ruptured eardrum.

In many cases, a ruptured eardrum may heal within a few months if it is properly treated. In severe cases, treatment may include the need for surgery. However, a ruptured eardrum can also cause permanent damage. This may occur if the eardrum does not naturally heal properly on its own. It can also occur if needed ear surgery is not completed. There are some factors that may prevent the eardrum from healing properly. For example, blowing your nose while the eardrum is healing could put extra pressure on the area and erase any healing that has taken place.

Pain or discomfort, recurring ear infections, vertigo and other signs could point to a ruptured eardrum. If you have noticed these issues or if you simply feel as though something is not right in your ear, a medical examination is necessary. Your doctor can help you to heal your eardrum properly and to decrease the chance of suffering permanent hearing loss.

Living with Hearing Loss with Hearing Aids

There are several ways to determine with accuracy if you are suffering from hearing loss. For example, there are online hearing tests that are available for you to use right now. You could also request a hearing test from your physician. Hearing aids are one of the most common solutions for treating permanent hearing loss. While ordering hearing aids may have been a significant ordeal that required you to work closely with an audiologist at one time, quality hearing aids can now conveniently be ordered online. If you have been struggling with your hearing, rest assured that an easy solution is available.

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Hearing Aid FAQ

Think about your day-to-day life. Are you or your loved ones noticing that you're having a hard time following the details of conversations, especially in noisy environments? Has the volume on the TV been steadily creeping up? These are just a few signs that it might be time to consider if hearing aids can restore some quality to your everyday moments. There are free hearing tests you can take online that may help you make that determination, if you're not ready to visit an audiologist or there isn't one readily available near you.
Generally speaking, there are three steps to how your hearing aids help you hear better. First, the built-in microphone captures sound in your environment and changes it into a digital signal. Next, the amplifier makes that signal stronger. Finally, the in-ear speaker sends the amplified sound into your ear.
The average lifespan for a hearing aid is 5-6 years. Most come with a warranty of one or two years, so extended protection plans are worth considering. You can also get your hearing aids tuned up or repaired as needed.
That depends on the equipment you choose and whether or not they are rechargeable. You can buy a single hearing aid for under $50, while some of the most expensive devices sell for over $4,000 for the pair! If you use hearing aids with replaceable batteries, expect to change your batteries every 1-3 weeks (depending on how many hours per day you use your hearing aids). Batteries are fairly inexpensive, though: you shouldn't have to spend more than $50/year on them.
You've got lots of options! The main consideration is whether you want one that hangs over the ear (with the main body behind your ear) or one that is completely in-ear. In-ear hearing aids are much easier to conceal, but they're not always comfortable to work with if you have arthritis in your hands or have trouble with small objects in general. Both styles of hearing aids often come with great features like customizable sound settings (e.g. for different environments like crowded rooms vs. watching TV at home), smartphone app controls, and phone/video support from expert technicians.
That depends: every user is unique. Not only will you have to adjust to the physical sensation of having the devices in your ears, but your brain also has to adapt to the new range of sounds (especially if you've been struggling with hearing loss for a long time). It's a good idea to choose a hearing aid brand and retailer that will give you a 30- to 60-day trial period, to give yourself time to get used to your new equipment.
Absolutely! There's no need to spend time waiting for appointments at retailers near you when you can buy the same hearing aids online. If you're concerned about getting the right ones, setting them up properly, or accessing support if there's an issue, don't worry: the best online retailers of hearing aids usually make it hassle-free to get all of the help you need.
Most companies that sell hearing aids know that it might take some trial and error to get the best ones for you: the style, fit, and functionality all impact your experience. Fortunately, they usually give you a period from 30-60 days to get used to them, adjust their settings, and see if they are a good match. If not, you can get a refund. Just be sure to check the return policy of any hearing aid retailer you're considering prior to making your purchase.
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