In adults, the most common causes of hearing loss are:
- Noise. Reference Noise-induced hearing loss can affect people of all ages and most often develops gradually over many years. Over time, the noise experienced at work, during recreation (such as riding motorcycles), or even common chores (such as using a power lawn mower) can lead to hearing loss.
- Age. In Reference age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), changes in the nerves and cells of the Reference inner ear Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window that occur as you get older cause a gradual but steady hearing loss. The loss may be mild or severe, but it is always permanent.
Other causes of hearing loss include:
- Earwax buildup or an object in the ear. Hearing loss because of earwax is common and easily treated.
- Reference Ototoxic medicines (such as certain antibiotics) and other substances (such as arsenic, mercury, tin, lead, and manganese) that can damage the ear.
- Reference Injury to the ear or head. Head injuries can also damage the structures in the ear and cause a sudden hearing loss.
- Reference Ear infection, such as a middle ear infection (Reference otitis media Opens New Window) or an infection of the ear canal (Reference otitis externa Opens New Window or swimmer's ear).
- Fluid in the middle ear after a cold or the Reference flu Opens New Window, or after traveling on an airplane.
- Otosclerosis, a condition that affects the bones of the middle ear.
- Acoustic neuroma, a noncancerous tumor on the nerve that helps people hear.
- Ménière's disease. Ménière's disease may result in temporary or permanent hearing loss.
- Noncancerous (benign) growths in the ear canal, such as exostoses, osteomas, and glomus tumors. Exostoses are bone growths that often develop when the ear canal is repeatedly exposed to cold water or cold air. Osteomas and glomus tumors are noncancerous tumors. These all can cause hearing loss if they block the ear canal. A glomus tumor that occurs elsewhere in the head can also affect hearing.
Other medical conditions that do not affect the ear directly may also cause hearing loss.
- An interruption of the blood flow to the inner ear or parts of the brain that control hearing may lead to hearing loss. This may be caused by heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
- Autoimmune hearing loss can occur in one or both ears and can come and go or get worse over 3 to 4 months. An Reference autoimmune disease Opens New Window, such as Reference rheumatoid arthritis Opens New Window, may be present.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 25, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Steven T. Kmucha, MD - Otolaryngology