5 Causes of Severe Hearing Loss (and How to Treat It)
Posted 1/9/18

Is severe hearing loss impacting your life?  Have you ever been curious what causes
severe hearing loss?  Hearing loss is a more common problem that can affect anyone.
You might not know, but some of your daily activities could be affecting your hearing. 
We want to help you understand some of the causes of hearing loss, so we put a list
together for you.  The more you know about the topic could help prevent you and
your family from hearing the loss in the future.

Here are the 5 most common causes to know and how you can treat your hearing loss.

1. Loud Noises
Long-term exposure to loud noises can cause severe hearing loss. Exposure to loud machinery at work could cause irreversible damage to the ear. The loud noise of airplanes, power tools, motorcycles, concerts, and others contribute to gradual hearing loss.
Because the loss happens over time you might not notice right away. You'll begin to notice gradual hearing loss when it starts affecting everyday activities.  The first signs of hearing damage include distorted or muffled sounds, and difficulty understanding other people.

The treatments will depend on the severity of the damage. However, there are things you can do to prevent further damage if you're around hazardous noises.
Always wear earplugs or protectors when exposed to loud sounds, and avoid being surrounded by loud noises when you can.
The gradual hearing loss combined with age usually requires hearing aids to help amplify various sounds.
Often when the exposure to loud noises is not severe, hearing loss is self-treated and it disappears over the course of 16 to 48 hours.

2. Age
As people age, some parts of their ear lose elasticity. Inside the ear, there are tiny hair cells responsible for helping you hear. When a person starts to age those tiny hairs get damaged or slowly wither.  There is not a single cause why severe hearing loss happens as we age. Sometimes genetics play a factor, or other conditions contribute to the problem.
Hearing loss as we age has been linked to:
  • Exposure to loud noises early in life (such as the workplace)
  • Family history of hearing loss
  • A lifetime of smoking
  • Certain medications
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes

There is no treatment that can cure sensorineural hearing loss, but there are ways to improve hearing.  A hearing specialist will recommend what the best options are to treat hearing loss. Depending on the severity of the hearing loss, they may suggest hearing aids.  A more invasive procedure is called a cochlear implant. Surgery is required to place it inside the ear. The implant will allow the person to detect sounds again, but it doesn't restore hearing back to normal.  There are some devices that could help facilitate daily life such as telephone amplifiers.  If the hearing loss gets to a severe point, the person might have to resort to learning sign language. They may also learn how to read lips.

3. Childhood Illnesses
In children, certain childhood illnesses can cause severe hearing loss. Ear infections are common in children, and if left untreated they can permanently affect hearing.  There are some other diseases common in childhood that can cause hearing loss such as chickenpox, influenza, encephalitis, measles, mumps, and meningitis.

The best way to protect a child from hearing loss caused by these illnesses is by getting them vaccinated against them. A vaccine can prevent them from ever getting such diseases.  It's important to talk to a pediatrician so they can recommend when to get them.

4. Perforated Eardrum
There are many different causes of perforated eardrums and each has a different level of severity.  Middle ear infections involve the accumulation of fluids. The pressure caused by the fluids often causes the eardrum to rupture.  Loud blasts such as explosions or gunshots can cause a tear in the eardrum due to the overpowering soundwave.  Doctors always recommend not to introduce foreign objects like q-tips, keys, and pens in your ear due to the risk of causing damage. The eardrum is very delicate and can be easily perforated.  Barotrauma occurs due to the sudden change of air pressure, and it can cause the eardrum to perforate. Airplanes cause pressure changes that could potentially damage the eardrum. Scuba diving has also been linked to eardrum damage.

For the most part, when they are not severe, eardrum perforations will heal on their own. Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics if there's a sign of infection.  However, if the tear doesn't close on its own, additional procedures might be necessary.  An eardrum patch might be used to seal the hole or tear. The procedure involves the application of a chemical to stimulate growth, and a patch over it. In some cases, the procedure needs to be repeated several times.
If no other methods work, your doctor might recommend a surgery called tympanoplasty. It involves taking a patch of the person's tissue and closing the tear with it.

5. Genetics
Researchers have found certain genes that make more people prone to severe hearing loss.
Certain gene mutations make people more prone to hearing loss as they age. The mutations can cause the hair cells inside the ear to not function properly.  People with the same gene mutation are more susceptible to hearing loss due to noise, age, medication, and other factors than those without it.  Otosclerosis and Pendred syndrome are some examples of genetic conditions that cause hearing loss.

When babies are born, they are screened for genetic hearing loss conditions. However, sometimes the genetic mutation presents itself later in life.  The treatment for genetic hearing loss often depends on the type of condition that caused it.
Need More Information About Severe Hearing Loss?

Remember there's not one specific cause of severe hearing loss. In some cases, you can slow down, or prevent hearing loss by avoiding exposure to loud noises or certain activities.  Always protect your ears if you're attending a loud event. And don't forget to consult your doctor if you notice changes to your hearing.

We can help if you have more questions about your particular condition. Contact us to perform a full hearing evaluation.
Schedule a Hearing Exam