You’d be forgiven for thinking that hearing loss is a by-product of old age, but let us tell you, there are just as many cases of hearing loss that occur in young people than there are from just old age alone.
Let’s explore the 4 most common causes and what you can do to protect yourself.
Common Cause #1
Sensorineural – inner ear damage
Wear and tear happens everywhere in our bodies, but with our ears, it’s a little more severe, as exposure to loud noises can damage the little hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea responsible for sending the sound signals to the brain.
When the little hairy nerve cells get damaged, higher or even milder pitched tones may sound muffled until eventually hearing loss occurs, which is what we call sensorineural.
Unfortunately, this type of hearing loss is permanent, but there are ways you can prevent it …
When you know you’re going to be in a loud environment, say a music concert, a sporting event, or a street rally, be the one in the know by pre-purchasing some earplugs. They’re super discreet these days, and standard ones don’t cost much, but they really are amazing at their job of helping to keep your ears safe from noise overload.
Common Cause #2
Similar to cause #1, a ruptured eardrum can be the result of wear and tear or a standalone incident such as loud blasts of noise, sudden changes in pressure, or even poking your eardrum with an object.
We advise you to take heed of our suggested prevention method above … oh, and whatever you do, please don’t be tempted to poke your ears with an object!
Common Cause #3
There are many reasons why earwax builds up, but most notably it’s either hereditary or care hasn’t been taken to remove it regularly enough.
Earwax can block the ear canal and stop sound waves in their tracks – a bit like a dam. Leave the dam in place for too long and the strength of the sound waves weaken leaving you at risk of developing hearing loss.
Ideally, you should be checking your ears for build up every couple of months. Please remember, a small amount of wax is actually good and safe – it’s just when it’s blocking the canal that it needs treating.
Don’t be tempted by cotton swabs, as these can push the wax further into the canal. Instead, a simple earwax removal treatment, such as a candle or syringe, will suffice.
Common cause #4
Ear infection, bone growths, or tumors
Yikes, these ones can be pretty nasty, but it’s good to be aware of them so you can spot the signs before they become malignant.
Usually found in the outer or middle ear, ear infections are more common in children than adults. Inflammation, tenderness, dizziness, or swelling are all symptoms of an infection.
In a condition known as Otosclerosis, abnormal bone growth can fuse together the ear’s 3 little stirrup bones that transmit sounds to the cochlea making hearing loss almost inevitable.
This is most common in people in their 20s – 30s, and if left untreated can cause severe hearing loss, but not total deafness (We don’t want to panic you!).
If you find yourself struggling to hear low voices or whispers, find yourself speaking quietly because your voice sounds loud to you, or you even have tinnitus, these could be symptoms of Otosclerosis.
Tumors or cancer in the ear might sound scary, but let us reassure you, 85% of people who develop either a tumor or cancer and discover it early are cured after treatment.
As with all three of these causes, nature can have its wicked way with you whether you’re precautionary or not, so if you suspect you might have an infection, bone growth, or tumor, we strongly advise that you seek a doctor’s opinion before self-diagnosing and especially self-medicating. We don’t want you causing yourself any undue harm.
A lot of the time, your condition is totally treatable …
… So last but not least, Common Cause #5
Yes, so this one was bound to make the cut, as it is, for many, an inevitable product of getting older. But hey, we hope if this applies to you right now that you’ve had a lot of fun in the making!
If you’re still a spring chicken, don’t worry yourself, just take our advice above and keep your ears safe from frequent exposure to loud noises – it really will help you maintain healthier hearing for longer.
Our most recommended advice to ensure you’re doing all you can to protect your ears and to check everything is ship shape and dandy is to book one of our HEARING TESTS at our friendly center here in North Houston.
Call us at 281-444-9800 or fill out our contact form here.
We’ll get you booked in, seen to, and kept up to speed quicker than you can say “hearing loss.”
We hope to see you here very soon.
Dr. Lacey Brooks received a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry in 2003, and earned her doctorate of audiology in 2009. She completed her clinical internships and residency at various facilities within Houston Medical Center. Dr. Brooks is a professional member of the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), a member of the Texas Academy of Audiology (TAA), and is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She is also the vice president of the Louisiana State University Houston Chapter Alumni Association.