Hearing loss causes

The causes of hearing loss and deafness can be divided into congenital causes and acquired causes.

I Want To Hear - Middle East - Newborn with mother in hospital

Congenital causes

The exact cause of a child’s hearing loss can be difficult to pinpoint. It can be due to genes passed down from the parents; an infection the mother contracted while pregnant; or treatments used to save the life of a very sick baby.

Hearing loss can also occur along with other problems present at birth with the eyes, heart, kidneys etc. Hearing loss cannot be attributed to types of foods, falls, or most illnesses during pregnancy. Often the cause of a child’s hearing loss is unknown. Your doctor will be able to provide more information on this subject. Some examples as below:

  • maternal rubella, syphilis or certain other infections during pregnancy;
  • low birth weight;
  • birth asphyxia (a lack of oxygen at the time of birth);
  • inappropriate use of ototoxic drugs (such as aminoglycosides, cytotoxic drugs, antimalarial drugs and diuretics) during pregnancy; and
  • severe jaundice in the neonatal period, which can damage the hearing nerve in a newborn infant.

Acquired causes

Acquired causes lead to hearing loss at any age.

  • Infectious diseases such as meningitis, measles and mumps can lead to hearing loss, mostly in childhood, but also later in life.
  • Chronic ear infection, which commonly presents as discharging ears, can lead to hearing loss. In certain cases this condition can also lead to serious, life-threatening complications, such as brain abscesses or meningitis.
  • Collection of fluid in the ear (otitis media) can cause hearing loss.
  • Use of ototoxic drugs at any age, such as some antibiotic and antimalarial medicines for example, can damage the inner ear.
  • Head injury or injury to the ear can cause hearing loss.
  • Excessive noise, including working with noisy machinery, and exposure to loud music or other loud noises, such as gunfire or explosions, can harm a person’s hearing.
  • Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is caused by degeneration of sensory cells.
  • Wax or foreign bodies blocking the ear canal can cause hearing loss at any age. Such hearing loss is usually mild and can be readily corrected.

Among children, chronic otitis media is the leading cause of hearing loss.


Adults at risk

Did you know that exposure to loud noise is one of the key risk factors for hearing loss? Noise induced hearing loss is one of the most common types of hearing loss, but fortunately it is also completely preventable.

You can reduce your risk simply by limiting and managing your exposure to hazardous noise in your leisure, work or home environments. Keep in mind you should take special precautions if you are a:

  • farmer who is regularly surrounded by machinery noise
  • factory, mining or construction worker who is exposed to high levels of industrial noise
  • regularly exposed to high levels of noise

The World Health Organisation says that noise exposure is the second most common job-related illness/injury. You can protect yourself from damaging workplace noise, by wearing ear plugs and speaking to your occupational health and safety officer or manager about making your workplace quieter. Follow the prevention motto solution – Cover your ears, Avoid the noise or Turn it down. Use correctly-fitting ear plugs, limit the time you spend in very noisy places, and take advantage of electronic hearing protection devices and smartphone apps designed to help you monitor and manage your noise exposure.


The information on this website is for educational purposes, and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.

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