Quad Cities, IL/IA

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Ask the Audiologist


By Heather Sandy, MA, CCC-A, Audiology Consultants

Q: What are some causes of hearing loss?
What can I do to prevent damage to my ears?

A: Hearing Loss is a significant public health issue that is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease. There are many potential causes of hearing loss. A diagnostic hearing test and review of ear and hearing symptoms can help determine the type and possible cause of hearing loss. The following are just some of the common causes of hearing loss:

  • Age related hearing loss typically develops gradually in both ears as we get older. The aging process takes its toll on tiny hair cells in the inner ear. Once these cells are damaged, they cannot be repaired. Therefore, age related hearing loss is permanent.
  • Noise induced hearing loss also causes damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. The louder the noise is, or the longer you are exposed to it, the more damage it is doing to your ears. Repeated exposure to moderately loud sounds (like chainsaws or loud music) can cause gradual hearing loss that is often difficult to notice at first. Exposure to very loud sound such as a gunshot can cause sudden loss of hearing. There is no known cure for noise-induced hearing loss.
  • Ear infections can cause hearing loss that is often temporary due to fluid being trapped behind the eardrum. When the eardrum cannot move properly, sounds may be quiet or muffled. When ear infections are left untreated, permanent hearing loss is a possibility.
  • Earwax may build up in the ear canal enough to cause decreased hearing by physically plugging up the ear. Earwax is a normal and natural part of our ear’s self-cleaning mechanism and will typically work its way out of the ear on its own. When something disrupts this natural process (like pushing the wax back in with a cotton swab) we can end up with some wax stuck in the ear canal. It is best to see your doctor regarding removal of the wax.
  • Other medical factors may contribute to hearing loss. Studies indicate hearing loss may be more common in people with diabetes, heart disease, or obesity.
  • Ototoxic medications, such as some chemotherapy drugs and aminoglycoside antibiotics, can cause permanent hearing loss as well. Always discuss any concerns with your doctor.

So, what can be done to prevent damage to your hearing? In short, protect your ears from loud noise and strive to be as healthy as you can. If you are concerned about current hearing difficulty, consider a full diagnostic hearing test with an audiologist. The results will help determine what the cause may be as well as possible treatments to help you hear your best.

For more information, call Audiology Consultants, PC, at 563-355-7712 or visit www.audiologyconsultants.com.

Photo credit: AlexRaths/iStock