With over 5% of the entire world’s population suffering from disabling hearing loss (according to recent statistics released by the World Health Organization), hearing health has never been a more important topic of conversation. Yet, many people do not fully understand its causes and how many of them can be prevented. The American Association for Retired People (AARP) has compiled a helpful list of common causes of hearing loss and their solutions. We’ve included a few of them below – the more educated you are about your own hearing health, the more empowered you will be to protect it.
3 Common Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves are hindered or prevented from freely traveling through the outer ear, in the ear canal, or to the eardrum. Many cases are temporary and their causes can be treated or even prevented altogether.
- Problem: Earwax – While earwax itself is important for ear health, too much of it can cause buildup that blocks the ear canal, resulting in impaired hearing. When present in just the right quantity, however, earwax acts like a shield to the eardrum, preventing things like dust and dirt from getting to it and causing damage.
Solution: Earwax removal – Many people attempt to remove built-up earwax by using a cotton swab. This can be dangerous, however, as it pushes the earwax further into the ear and can actually result in greater damage. Instead, visit your local audiologist for professional earwax removal.
2. Problem: Perforated eardrum – If this sounds painful, you’re right! Also known as a ruptured eardrum, this is a condition characterized by a small hole or tear in the eardrum’s delicate tissue. It can be caused by infection, pressure changes, injury, or trauma.
Solution: Visit an ENT or hearing professional – Many eardrum punctures heal by themselves over time. However, it’s always advisable to have it checked by an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor or an audiologist to make sure that there is no other hidden damage.
3. Problem: Ear infection – Sometimes referred to as otitis media, or middle ear infection, this is typically a temporary problem but can be painful or have lasting effects if not treated. Ear infections are commonly caused by colds, viruses, and allergies. Fluid builds up in the middle ear, the area that houses the tiny bones that aid in hearing, and can become infected.
Solution: Medication – Some ear infections clear up on their own, while others require over-the-counter medications for symptom management or antibiotics to kill the infection-causing bacteria. Evaluation and treatment by your primary care doctor can help prevent temporary hearing loss from an ear infection from turning into permanent damage.
3 Common Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Like conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss can often be prevented, but when it does occur, the damage is typically permanent. It is characterized by damage to the inner ear. Here are a few common causes and possible solutions.
- Earbuds – Using these to listen to music is handy for not disturbing others around you, but if the volume is up too high, you can actually be causing your own hearing loss. Keep the volume low (someone sitting next to you should not be able to hear your music) and use them for shorter time periods, not hours at a time.
- Recreational events – Attending a music concert, sporting event, or fireworks show can all be enjoyable ways to spend your free time, but they are also noisy environments that can cause noise-induced hearing loss if your ears aren’t protected. Carry earplugs with you to use at the event, especially if you’re seated close to the sound source (like the front row at the concert!).
- Diabetes – You might think this disease has nothing to do with hearing, since it’s related to blood sugar, but it does. According to statistics reported by AARP, you’re twice as likely to develop hearing loss if you have diabetes. This is likely because individuals with the disease also have high-risk factors for heart disease. This ultimately affects the circulation of blood in the blood vessels of the ear and impacts hearing.
For additional causes of sensorineural hearing loss, you can read the full story here. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns about your hearing health, now is the time to act. Schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable audiologists for a thorough hearing evaluation and treatment plan. Many cases of hearing loss are either preventable altogether or easily treated if caught early enough. It’s time to take your hearing health into your own hands and protect it!