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:
- Head trauma or injury
- Infections such as meningitis, measles, mumps, and shingles
- Certain medications
- Diseases or medical conditions such as diabetes, stroke, Ménière’s disease, brain tumors, and high blood pressure
- Exposure to excessively loud noise
- High fever
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:
- Build-up of earwax
- Foreign objects in the ear canal
- Abnormal growths or tumors
- Infections of the ear canal such as swimmer’s ear
- Infections of the middle ear such as glue ear
- Perforated eardrums
- 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.
Dr. JJ Martinez served active duty in the United States Marine Corps before receiving his bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2005 and his doctoral degree from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in 2010. He completed internships at North Oaks Hospital, Tulane University Hospital, and several audiology practices in the greater New Orleans area as well as a year long externship with a private practice in Hammond, LA. Dr. Martinez is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and a member of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association.