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The Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss

an older woman in a hearing examination

As you may know, there are three distinct types of hearing loss, and sensorineural hearing loss is the type that is acquired. You also have conductive and mixed hearing loss types. You also have either acquired or congenital hearing loss and acquired hearing loss is the type of loss that isn't something you are born with.

It's something that develops later on in life. Congenital hearing loss is less common than acquired hearing loss, and it's the hearing loss that occurs in the womb during development. Things like maternal diabetes and lack of oxygen can both affect hearing in the womb, and a baby is then born with hearing loss as a result.

Most people who have hearing loss experience it later in life as the result of inner ear damage. The inner ear is so important for how we hear, and we rely on the little hairs on the inside of the ear to remain intact so that sound can be conducted to the brain. The inner ears have a lot of nerve pathways and fluid as well as the hair cells, and when these hair cells are damaged, the sounds cannot be translated properly to the brain and then we lose our hearing ability.

While other cells regenerate, hair cells inside the inner ear do not, so once they're damaged, there's no going back. We are born with all the hair cells in the inner ear we will ever have, and once they are damaged, it's permanent.

Causes of acquired hearing loss

There are causes of acquired hearing loss, and your audiologist can explain them to you if you are struggling to understand why this has happened. Below, we have a list of some of the most common causes of acquired hearing loss:

Age

As we get older, hearing loss is more common because of structural changes to the ear. A great number of adults deal with age-related hearing loss and for some, it's because of medical conditions and changes in blood flow. It doesn't happen to everyone, but it happens to most people and almost half of adults over 75 have hearing loss that is disabling.

Noise

Over exposure and prolonged exposure to loud noise is one of the leading causes of noise-induced hearing loss. The noise damages the hair cells in the inner ear and its noises that are louder than 85 decibels that cause permanent damage. High levels of sound that are over this decibel level can be very harmful to your hearing and you'll find that concerts, sporting events and loud events have an effect on your hearing.

On top of this, you could have your hearing damaged simply by having headphones turned up too loud! When you are exposed to hazardous levels of noise, you may deal with hearing loss long term.

Trauma

When your ears or head is damaged, acoustic trauma can occur and this can lead to the hair cells being knocked out and that's what causes the hearing loss. As well as physical trauma to the ear or head, a loud explosion can cause the hair cells to be ruptured, too.

Medical conditions

There are other conditions that affect hearing, too, such as heart disease and hypertension as well as viral infections and diabetes. All these things can affect blood flow to the inner ear, can cause inflammation and can affect the nerves. This is all critical to the auditory system. Some side effects of medications can also damage your hearing health.

Symptoms of acquired hearing loss

Your audiologist will be able to talk you through whether the things you are feeling are symptoms of acquired hearing loss or not. Acquired hearing loss affects your ability to hear and process sound comfortably, with this type of hearing loss affecting the volume and clarity of the sound you are trying to listen to. Some of the symptoms that you would be experiencing include the following:

  • Sounds that are loud are often uncomfortably loud, but quieter sounds are too quiet, too.
  • When you are in environments with a lot of background noise, it's harder to hear anything.
  • You're turning up the volume on your electronics all the time.

These symptoms can be challenging to cope with, and it makes it harder to follow a conversation when you are with friends. When you leave your symptoms without treatment, you will deepen the impairment without intending to.

Get some hearing help

If you have noticed the symptoms of acquired hearing loss, then you should start by contacting our audiologist at the Hearing & Balance Centers of West Tennessee at Jackson: 731-660-5511, Memphis: 901-842-4327.


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