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Published on: 4 July 2015

What can cause hearing loss?

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the tiny bones (ossicles) of the middle ear.

What causes hearing loss?

Conductive hearing loss usually involves a reduction in sound level or the ability to hear faint sounds. This type of hearing loss can often be corrected medically or surgically. Some possible causes of conductive hearing loss:

  • Ear infection (otitis media)
  • Poor eustachian tube function
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Impacted earwax (cerumen)
  • Infection in the ear canal e.g swimmer's ear
  • Presence of a foreign body
  • Absence or malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL) occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea), or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Most of the time, SNHL cannot be medically or surgically corrected. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. SNHL reduces the ability to hear faint sounds. Even when speech is loud enough to hear, it may still be unclear or sound muffled.
Some possible causes of SNHL:

  • Viral infections
  • Drugs that are toxic to hearing
  • Hearing loss that runs in the family (genetic or hereditary)
  • Aging
  • Head trauma
  • Malformation of the inner ear
  • Exposure to loud noise

Mixed Hearing Loss

Sometimes a conductive hearing loss occurs in combination with a sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). In other words, there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve. When this occurs, the hearing loss is referred to as a mixed hearing loss.

Noise and hearing

Loud noise can be very damaging to hearing. Both the level of noise and the length of time you listen to the noise can put you at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Noise levels are measured in decibels, or dB for short. The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. Sounds that are louder than 85 dB can cause permanent hearing loss. The hearing system can be injured not only by a loud blast or explosion but also by prolonged exposure to high noise levels.

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