Causes of Hearing Loss

  1. Wax Blockage
  2. Presbyacusis (Age) – hearing loss due to age
  3. Deaf in 1 Ear / Single Sided Deafness
  4. Noise Damage
  5. Menieres Disease
  6. Perforated Ear Drum
  7. Otosclerosis – bone hardening
  8. Otitis Media – middle ear infection
  9. Medication

1. Wax (or Cerumen)

The most common cause of sudden hearing loss. Wax is an accumulation of secretions from the ceruminous glands within the ear canal.

Treatment can include syringing, suction, probe removal and ear drops.

Ear Wax Removal Service

2. Presbyacusis

The most common general form of hearing loss resulting in a slow progressive deterioration of the hearing. Although there are varying types of pathology that can result in presbyacusis, the most common cause is hair cell degeneration within the cochlea leading to less electrical impulse signals being sent to the brain. This degeneration is commonly caused by noise exposure, but can also be bought on by vascular, dietary and stress related problems amongst others.

Presbyacusis is permanent and can only be treated with hearing aids.

Being a slow progressive deterioration, presbyacusis normally takes a few years before a person will recognise or even admit they have a problem. A classic indication of someone suffering from presbyacusis is that they will often complain that people mumble.

Speech can be split into low and high frequency. The low frequency content is made up of the vowels, deeper resonating elements that give off volume, and the high frequency content is made up of the consonants, the quieter T’s, and S’s etc that start and end words, and define clarity. As presbyacusis has more impact on the higher frequencies a sufferer may hear the volume of speech (the vowel content) but will inevitably miss the clarity (the consonant content). Thus a sufferer will generally cope much better 1 to 1 where the brain can fill in the gaps they are missing, than when background noise is present and the brain cannot fill in the gaps so readily, or between rooms where lip reading is not possible. Background noise is generally low frequency.

Digital hearing aids were developed for this type of loss and have now reached such a level so as to restore a much better quality of life for most sufferers, even in noisy environments.

4. Noise induced hearing loss

Noise induced hearing loss can be caused by long duration exposure (such as factory machinery) or sudden high intensity exposure (such as bomb damage or gun fire).

The resulting damage is the same as for presbyacusis but may result in slightly different test results. Sudden high intensity exposure can often cause severe high frequency damage whilst very minimal low frequency damage. This means that such a sufferer may hear low frequency volume of speech just as ably as a teenager, but may miss the high frequency clarity completely. As such, these sufferers can be in denial for longer periods and are less partial to wearing aids, as they hear many sounds loud enough.

Open-fit (OTE and RIC) digital hearing aids have been developed to overcome this type of loss, restoring clarity, whilst providing a comfortable, discreet solution.

5. Menieres Disease

Also known as Idiopathic Episodic Endolymphatic Hydrops. Called Idiopathic because the cause is unknown, however it is known the problem is associated with abnormal pressure changes due to over and under production of fluid within the inner ear. Being that the inner ear is attached to the vestibule (the balance organ) symptoms can include severe attacks of dizziness and nausea, alongside a fluctuating hearing loss and tinnitus.

Menieres can occur at any age but more frequently between the ages of 20 and 50 with the majority of sufferers being over 40. 7-10% of sufferers have a family history of the problem

A client suspected of having Menieres must be referred for medical attention prior to being fitted with hearing aids as amplification can induce attacks, and there may be more suitable alternative treatments.

For those who have already received medical advice and who wish to receive treatment with hearing aids, consideration should be given to using hearing aids with a volume control to counter any fluctuations in the loss.

6. Perforated Eardrums

May result from violent changes in pressure (a slap or explosion etc), direct trauma (from a cotton bud, hairclip etc), excessive pressure build up within the middle ear (from blocked Eustachian tubes), and very rarely from uncareful syringing.

Patients suffering from perforated eardrums should seek medical attention prior to being fitted with hearing aids as some perforations can heal spontaneously. Permanent perforations can normally be easily treated with modern hearing aids, but wearers should give extra attention to cleaning and maintenance of the hearing aids so as to avoid infection setting in. Some doctors may advise against the use of aids for this reason.

7. Otosclerosis

A growth of extra spongy-type bone that forms on the middle ear bones that gradually hardens preventing transmission of the sound signal to pass from the stapes bone to the cochlea.

A hereditary disease affecting 1 in 200 of the population, onset occurring usually between the ages of 20 and 30 years.

Patients with otosclerosis should seek medical assistance as surgery may be offered to cure the problem, normally in the form of a stapedectomy. Surgery is the treatment of choice but eventually the bony outgrowth may form back. There are contra-indications to surgery for some clients, and it should be noted that surgery is not always successful, which can in the worst cases lead to complete deafness. See www.stapedectomy.co.uk for more information.

Hearing aids are usually very successful in overcoming this type of hearing loss.

8. Otitis Media

Build up of fluid in the middle ear causing a conductive loss, usually as a result of blockage in the Eustachian tube. Patients with otitis media should seek medical help and should not be treated with hearing aids. Excessive or prolonged fluid build up can lead to other complications and should be treated urgently.

9. Medication (ototoxic drugs) and Infections

Infections and drugs within the bloodstream can cause damage to the inner ear. These normally result in more rapid and severe losses and can also be congenital, being passed from mother to unborn child. These losses can often be successfully treated with hearing aids.

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Other causes of hearing loss can occur – please call us should you have any concerns you wish to discuss.

Tinnitus is not a ’cause’ of hearing loss, but is often a symptom of various causes of hearing loss and hearing related problems. Follow this link for more on tinnitus and tinnitus hearing aid solutions which incorporate built in tinnitus masking technology.

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