Hearing Loss Causes
Hearing loss can be caused by many things: aging, trauma, earwax, loud noises, certain drugs and a variety of illnesses ranging from ear infections to tumors. Doctors categorize hearing loss causes into four general groups: sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, Retro-Cochlear hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss depending on the part of the ear that is affected. Once doctors identify the cause of a patient’s hearing loss, they assess the hearing loss in terms of its severity, from mild to severe. They also assess hearing loss by a host of other criteria, such as if the patient is deaf in one or both ears. They also determine whether the degree of hearing loss is the same in both ears or different, and whether the hearing loss is stable, or changes over time.
Conductive Hearing Loss Causes
When something blocks sounds from passing through the middle or outer ear, this is known as conductive hearing loss. This kind of hearing loss is caused by complications with the eardrum, ear canal or the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss may result from tumors, congenital malformation of the ear, one or more foreign bodies in the ear or head trauma, all of which may be treated with surgery. It may also result from a middle ear infection, in which case it may be treated with drugs.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss Causes
Hearing loss that is nerve-related and affects the inner ear is known as sensorineural hearing loss. The inner ear contains the acoustic nerve and other nerves that transmit signals to the brain. Damage to the hearing nerve may result from trauma, inflammation, systemic disease or viruses. Doctors may treat inflammation or underlying autoimmune disease with corticosteroids, or tumors and ear compartment fluid rupture with surgery.
Another phenomenon called Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss can make a person go deaf immediately, or over a period of a few days. This sudden hearing loss should be considered a medical emergency; people who have sudden hearing loss should seek medical care right away to prevent a potentially permanent loss of hearing. A doctor will run hearing tests to determine whether a patient’s sudden hearing loss is due to this condition.
Mixed Hearing Loss Causes
A doctor may diagnose a patient with mixed hearing loss if their deafness seems to be due to more than one cause. A case of mixed hearing loss could result from having both sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. There might be damage to many parts of the ear at once in such cases -- from severe trauma, for example. A doctor would address each concern with the goal of saving as much of a patient’s hearing as possible.
Retro-Cochlear Hearing Loss
This kind of sensorineural hearing loss does not occur in the inner ear. It occurs beyond the ear. The patient sometimes loses hearing because of a tumor in the brain stem or the brain that is affecting the function of the auditory nerve. This kind of hearing loss is usually treated with surgery.
Signs of Hearing Loss
People who experience ringing in the ears, who have trouble hearing in large groups and who find themselves turning up the radio and television may be experiencing the first signs of hearing loss. Hearing problems usually don't resolve on their own. People experiencing signs of hearing loss should visit an audiologist for a medical evaluation. An audiologist can diagnose the causes of hearing loss and may reverse the problem, or prevent it from getting worse.