Hearing loss causes
Learn more about the many different causes of hearing loss, from tinnitus to Meniere’s disease.
Just as there are many different types of hearing loss, the causes of hearing loss are many and varied. Hearing involves a complex and delicate relay of sound through your outer, middle and inner ear, so damage to any of these parts can affect your hearing.
Hearing loss caused by an outer or middle ear defect is called conductive hearing loss, while damage to the inner ear and/or hearing nerve is called sensorineural hearing loss. If both types occur together, the condition is called mixed hearing loss.
Ageing, genetics, prolonged exposure to loud noises, some medications, middle ear infections, head injuries and medical conditions such as Ménière's disease, can all damage the ear and cause hearing loss. Tinnitus - the perception of ringing or buzzing in the ears - doesn’t cause hearing loss but is a common side effect of many hearing disorders.
Ageing can cause a permanent sensorineural hearing loss known as presbycusis. People with presbycusis will notice a gradual decline in their hearing, and have greater difficulty making out high-pitched sounds, especially in noisy environments.
Genetic factors can cause a conductive, sensorineural or mixed hearing loss which may be present from birth or develop later in life.
Exposure to loud noises - at loud workplaces like construction sites and during noisy leisure activities such as motorcycle riding - can cause tinnitus and permanent sensorineural hearing loss over time.
Some medicines - known as ototoxic medicines - can cause sensorineural hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo (dizziness and balance problems).
Middle ear infections can cause permanent conductive hearing loss when they are prolonged or left untreated.
A head injury, trauma or an operation can result in temporary or permanent conductive, sensorineural or mixed hearing loss.
Some common diseases causing hearing loss include:
Ménière's disease affects the inner ear, causing sporadic sensorineural hearing loss, as well as vertigo, tinnitus and sensitivity to loud sounds. Some hearing loss becomes permanent over time.
Autoimmune inner ear disease causes sudden-onset hearing loss in both ears.
Otosclerosis is a form of bone overgrowth in the middle ear which affecting the movement of the tiny bones in the middle ear, which can lead to conductive hearing loss.
Auditory neuropathy is a form of sensorineural hearing loss caused by a damaged or malfunctioning auditory nerve.
Solutions for hearing loss
Today we understand more about hearing loss and its causes than ever before, and hearing technology has improved a lot in recent years. From hearing aids to cochlear implants and direct bone conduction systems, there are sophisticated solutions for every type and degree of hearing loss. With these options, people with hearing loss can interact more fully with their friends, family and colleagues, and enjoy richer and more rewarding lives.
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.