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Posted on Monday, February 27, 2012

Causes of Hearing Problems

Woman in profile, ear showing causes of hearing loss

Top hearing news continues to show hearing problems growing increasingly common in today’s modern world. Many people acknowledge that with noise induced hearing loss on the rise, hearing problems are no longer relegated to an aging population. There is now a national recognition of the damage that earbuds and other devices that transmit music directly into the ear can cause, but the real news is that there are many causes for hearing problems not just noise. Hearing problems can happen to anyone at any age, and can be the result of a combination of factors like age, technology, medication, trauma, and noise.

There are three main categories under which hearing problems fall—sensorineural (inner ear damage), conductive (outer or middle ear damage), and mixed (inner, and outer or middle ear damage). There are numerous reasons that hearing problems, defined by these categories, occurs and can result in hearing loss being temporary or permanent, mild to severe.

Noise—It is now widely known that loud noises can damage the delicate hair cells within the inner ear. How does this damage happen? Inside the ear are small, delicate hairs that help conduct the noise that constitutes your hearing. Injury to these hair cells can come from exposure, sudden or prolonged, to loud noises. This can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss.

Trauma—Differences in pressure on the inside and outside of the eardrum, think plane or scuba diving, can cause it to burst. Trauma can also happen with any object inserted into the ear, viral infection, or sudden hearing loss an injury that can happen due to explosion.

Presbycusis— The gradual changes in the ear due to aging can cause problems with hearing. This damage occurs in one out of three people over the age of sixty and in two-thirds of people over the age of seventy. The signs and symptoms vary, but initially people notice an inability to hear higher rage sounds like children's and women's voices and that some sounds seem increasingly loud and annoying.

Ototoxicity—Medications, especially those for depression, can also cause hearing problems. Medication can even increase hearing loss that already exist, cause hearing loss, and result in temporary or permanent hearing loss. Consult your hearing health professional to find out if your medication could cause hearing problems and to seek alternatives to medications that can damage your hearing.

FluidOttis Media or earaches caused by the presence of fluid in the inner ear can cause be the cause of childhood hearing problems as well as that of adults. Hearing problems due to fluid in the inner ear can result in symptoms like ringing in the ears (tinnitus), vertigo, nausea and vomiting--all of which may also be signs of Meniere’s disease. It is important to having hearing problems associated with an earache evaluated in order to rule out more severe causes and especially in children to treat the symptoms before hearing loss becomes permanent.

Wax—Having wax in the ear is generally a good thing. It lubricates, protects, and helps keep ears clean, but too much ear wax can impede hearing. Generally a gentle solution can be used to clear the ears, but some people develop too much wax. If the wax proves stubborn or there is a consistent problem with buildup it is much safer to see a certified health professional to have your ears cleaned than to attempt to remove stubborn wax. Some methods of removing wax, like ear-candling, have been shown to be dangerous.

Scarring—Autoimmune diseases or hereditary conditions can cause excess scarring within the ear, so too can over exposure to cold water, better known as surfer's ear. This scarring can interfere with normal hearing and result in hearing problems that might need surgery to be remedied.

Tumors—Tumors on the ear can be either benign or malignant and can be in a position to block the ear or inhibit parts of the auditory brain stem thus causing hearing problems. These hearing problems may be permanent or temporary. Tumors can also occur within the inner ear or outside of it. Only a highly trained hearing health professional can diagnose and treat tumors of the ear.

Diabetes--diabetics are more likely to suffer from hearing problems and hearing loss for the same reasons that they are more likely to have problems with their circulation and heart—glucose overload. Hearing problems are not limited to older diabetics, but have been witnessed in much younger people and even children. Childhood hearing loss carries an additional problem of interfering with normal emotional, social, and cognitive development.

Otosclerosis—an abnormal growth within the inner ear that prevents the ear from vibrating and conducting sound. It is thought to be hereditary and may be accompanied by ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, these hearing problems need to be addressed. In order to treat hearing problems and find the best solutions, contact a hearing health professional. Untreated hearing loss can result in serious long term complications including depression, isolation, stress, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

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