What Causes Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss can affect you at any age. Children who are found to have hearing loss on routine hearing screens should have a more thorough hearing test performed by an audiologist and be evaluated by an ear, nose and throat doctor. Congenital hearing loss can be a result of exposure to prenatal infections or drugs, or due to a genetic syndrome.
Noise-induced hearing loss can occur as a result of a one-time exposure to extremely loud noise (gun shot, explosion, airbags) or from repeated exposures to loud noise (machinery, construction sites, concerts, stadiums). Noise-induced hearing loss can be sudden or appear years later. It is very common in those who have served in the military or held jobs where noise exposure is a daily occurrence. Often those with noise-induced hearing loss have ringing in the ears as well.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss occurs when a person suddenly loses hearing, usually in one ear, without any identifiable precipitating event. While we do not know the exact cause of this type of hearing loss, some theories suspect a viral infection of the inner ear. Some patients also have dizziness when this happens. If you suddenly lose your hearing in one or both ears, it is important to see an ear, nose and throat doctor as soon as possible. A hearing test should be done and if the diagnosis is confirmed treatment with anti-inflammatory steroid medication can increase the likelihood of regaining your hearing. We offer the latest treatment for sudden hearing loss, which includes infusion of topical steroid medication into the inner ear via a small incision in the ear drum (intratympanic injection). This treatment is performed in the office with a topical anesthetic and can significantly increase the likelihood of regaining hearing.
Age Related Hearing Loss
Age related hearing loss (presbycusis) is often related to our genetics. Most people will experience some hearing loss as they age, but the age at which hearing loss starts and the severity of the loss is due to our genetics and lifetime noise exposure. Other factors such as smoking, hypertension, diabetes, vascular disease, exposure to certain drugs, hormonal factors and autoimmune disorders can also increase the risk of hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is usually in the high frequencies and slowly progressive. It is due to damage of the sensory nerve cells in the inner ear and is best treated with a hearing aid. Tinnitus can often accompany this type of hearing loss.
There are several other ear diseases that can have hearing loss as a symptom:
- Meniere’s disease
- Acoustic neuroma/vestibular schwannoma
- Semicircular canal dehiscence
- Serous otitis media
- Glomus tumors
- Congenital aural atresia