Causes of hearing loss

12 May

Hearing loss causes significant problems to not only the affected individual but also to the entire family. It frequently results in social isolation of the affected person and also a loss of economic opportunity for the affected individual. Often the cost of treating the hearing loss can result in a cycle of debt for the family. The causes of hearing loss depends upon the type of hearing loss.

There are two main types of hearing loss:

1. Conductive hearing loss: In this, there is a problem in conduction of the sound waves. The block to conduction can either lie in the outer ear canal or the bones in the middle ear. Generally speaking, this form of hearing loss is more amenable to treatment. This form of hearing loss can be due to:-

a. An infection in either the ear canal or the middle ear which causes fluid or pus accumulation.

b. A perforation of the ear drum

c. Scarring or thickening of the eardrum due to previous infections or surgery.

d. A foreign body in the ear canal.

e. An abnormal growth or tumour in the ear canal.

f. Dislocation of bones(ossicles) in the middle ear

g. otosclerosis is a very common problem seen in the elderly.

2. Sensori-neural hearing loss: In this type of hearing loss, there is a problem either in the cochlea (which is present in the inner ear and which converts sound waves into electrical impulses which are then transmitted to the brain) or the nerves involved in transmitting the electrical impulses from the cochlea to the brain where the waves are processed and interpreted by the brain as sounds. Barring a few exceptions, this form of hearing loss is more difficult to treat as compared to conductive hearing loss. The causes include:

a. Ageing

b. Head injury or injury due to excessive noise exposure

c. Infections like measles, mumps, shingles, meningitis etc

d. Certain medications are toxic to the inner ear and can cause hearing impairment which may be permanent.

e. medical problems like hypertension, diabetes, stroke, obesity can cause a slow and progressive deterioration in hearing.

f. tumours in the inner ear

g. smoking can cause a slow and gradual hearing loss.

This was a brief description of the causes of hearing loss. The list is by no means exhaustive but is aimed to be a rough guide to the common person who suffers from hearing loss and hopes to find out the causes of hearing loss.