Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is classified either as congenital (if it occurs before birth) or acquired (if it occurs after birth).

Congenital hearing loss may be caused by hereditary factors as well as by disease or medical conditions suffered by a fetus. Acquired hearing loss can result from any of a variety of causes, including:

  • Age—Aging is the most common cause of hearing loss. Learn more about aging and hearing loss.
  • Disease—Diseases, such as MeningitisMeniere’s disease, and benign growths and tumors on the hearing nerve, can cause hearing loss. Viral infections, such as mumps and measles, can also reduce your ability to hear.
  • Drugs—Some drugs and antibiotics can damage hair cells in the inner ear and auditory nerve. Among them are quinine, aminoglycosides, diuretics, large doses of aspirin, and some chemotherapy agents. Learn more about otoxic drugs.
  • InfectionsOtitis media, characterized by accumulation of fluid in the middle ear, can lead to hearing loss, allergies, common colds, sore throats, inflamed tonsils and adenoids, blocked eustachian tubes. Any viruses can cause Otitis media.
  • Noise—Prolonged exposure to noise and even brief exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Learn more about noise-related hearing loss.
  • Perforation—Perforation of the eardrum can be caused by rapid changes in air pressure (like those which occur when flying or scuba diving), foreign objects (such as cotton swabs that are used to clean the ears), or pressure caused by a middle-ear infection.
  • Earwax—A build-up of wax (cerumen) in the ear canal can prevent sound from passing through the ear. A health care professional (nurse, physician) can remove the ear wax periodically to help improve your hearing. Important note: cotton swabs or sharp objects should never be used to clean your ears because they can push the wax deeper into the ear and may puncture the eardrum.

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