What Are The Main Causes of Hearing Loss in Older Adults?

2019-02-27 | Hearing loss, Patient Resources

What Are The Main Causes of Hearing Loss in Older Adults?

When your car breaks down or your computer stops working, it can take a bit of detective work to find out what’s gone wrong. It’s true of most complex machines and it’s also true of your ears, or more specifically your ability to hear. The list of causes for hearing loss is extensive and varies depending on the type of hearing loss. Here we’ll focus on some of the main causes in older adults. But before we get started, here’s a quick explanation of the two main types of hearing loss.

Sensorineural vs. conductive

Hearing loss occurs when sounds can’t reach the brain for processing. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sounds are prevented from reaching the brain due to problems in the outer or middle ear. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs due to problems in the inner ear or the nerve that runs from the inner ear to the brain. Consequently, conductive hearing loss tends to be caused by physical blockages, while sensorineural hearing loss often has more complex causes.

What are the main causes of sensorineural hearing loss?

The causes of sensorineural hearing loss are many and varied. This list is by no means exhaustive but covers the 10 most common causes:

  1. Head trauma or injury
  2. Infections such as meningitis, measles, mumps, and shingles
  3. Certain medications
  4. Diseases or medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke, Ménière’s disease, brain tumors, and high blood pressure
  5. Exposure to excessively loud noise
  6. High fever
  7. Genetics
  8. Obesity
  9. Smoking
  10. Aging

What can be done to treat sensorineural hearing loss?

Depending on the cause, medications, such as corticosteroids, can be used to treat some forms of sensorineural hearing loss. However, in many cases, once the damage is done, it cannot be reversed. This does not mean that there is nothing that can be done. Modern hearing aids provide an effective way to restore a significant amount of lost hearing ability.

What are the main causes of conductive hearing loss?

As we mentioned earlier, conductive hearing loss is most often due to blockages or obstructions. Here are 7 common causes:

  1. Build-up of earwax
  2. Foreign objects in the ear canal
  3. Abnormal growths or tumors
  4. Infections of the ear canal such as swimmer’s ear
  5. Infections of the middle ear such as glue ear
  6. Perforated eardrums
  7. Dislocation of the bones in the middle ear

What can be done to treat conductive hearing loss?

Conductive hearing loss is most often reversible, sometimes even without any treatment. However when treatment is required, it is often quite straightforward, such as the removal of earwax by suction or softening of earwax with oil drops, or the treatment of persistent infections with antibiotics. Abnormal growths or tumors, however, may require surgery.

Get the help you need

Whichever kind of hearing loss you have, help is at hand at our hearing health care centers in Mandeville, Hammond or Slidell. Our Audiologists, Dr. J. J. Martinez and Dr. Marissa Corneille, will get to the bottom of your hearing loss and provide you with all of your treatment options so you can get your hearing health back on track.

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Dr. JJ Martinez, AuD, FAAA

J.J. was born in Wichita, KS, and was brought up in a Marine Corps family. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the Marine Corps after high school and was stationed in Camp Lejeune, NC. After going to college at Southeastern Louisiana University, he went to graduate school and got his doctorate degree from Louisiana State University Health Science Center in New Orleans, LA. Soon after, he started his career in audiology and became board certified in Audiology.


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