Hearing Loss Causes: Identify and Treat

by Dr. Beverly R. Johannsen

When you recognize the cause of hearing loss, you start directing your efforts to its proper management. Hearing loss can occur due to aging, excess noise exposure, injury, Meniere’s disease, Otosclerosis and fall into the category of sensorineural or conductive hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Causes

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is a defect in the function of either your inner ear or the auditory nerve, which interfere in the transmission of sound or nerve signals to the brain. It can occur both early and later in life.

Sensorineural hearing loss which occurs at birth of a baby is called congenital sensorineural hearing loss and can occur due to genetic, acquired and unknown causes.

Genetic Causes

Genetic causes are the most common cause of congenital sensorineural hearing loss, consisting of congenital syndromes and chromosomal abnormalities.

Acquired Causes

Acquired causes of sensorineural hearing loss include infections, metabolic causes, toxins, and birth injury.


Infections in newborns can occur as a result of the transmission of disease-causing agents such as toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, herpes viruses, mumps, measles, meningococcal bacteria from mother to fetus in the womb. These can cause damage to the hearing system of the baby leading to sensorineural hearing loss.

Metabolic Causes

Metabolic causes include birth asphyxia which is decreased oxygen levels to the newborn baby due to circulation problems of the mother, leading to various issues including hearing loss.


Toxins such as alcohol, thalidomide, quinine in mother can cause birth defects in the newborn involving hearing loss.
Birth injury: Birth injury during the delivery of a baby can cause skull trauma or bleeding in the brain, affecting the hearing system.

Unknown Causes

Indeterminate causes have also been reported to cause sensorineural hearing loss in the newborn.

Sensorineural hearing loss occurring later in life can be caused by several factors including normal aging, excess noise exposure, infections, injury, tumors, medications and Meniere’s disease.


Aging can lead to hearing loss known as presbycusis It is one of the common conditions which affects hearing as you grow older characterized by damage to the hair cells of the inner ear.


Noise-induced hearing loss occurs as a result of exposure to a single episode of loud noise, such as an explosion or gunshot, or excess noise exposure to sounds louder than 85 decibels (dB). As per the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, NIDCD approximately 20 percent of US adults suffer from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).  You are prone to hearing loss, in case you have to shout to be heard or your ears ring after attending a live concert.

Disease And Infections

Exposure to infections, such as measles, meningitis and mumps during childhood and adulthood can cause sensorineural hearing loss.

Head Injury

Trauma such as injury to the head or ear can disrupt the normal functioning of your hearing system causing sensorineural hearing loss.


Tumors such as acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor that affects your hearing system and cholesteatoma, an abnormal skin growth in the middle ear can cause sensorineural hearing loss.


Numerous medications and chemicals are ototoxic or causing damage to your hearing health. Permanent hearing loss can occur after prolonged intake of certain antibiotics such as gentamycin, streptomycin; anti-inflammatory medications like salicylates and cancer chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin and carboplatin.

Meniere's Disease

Meniere’s disease affects your inner ear and can cause pressure or pain in the ear, dizziness or vertigo, sensorineural hearing loss, and tinnitus.

Conductive Hearing Loss Causes

The conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a defect in the function of your outer or middle ear due to damage or obstruction which inhibits the conduction of sound to the inner ear.

Outer Ear

Impaction of Wax

The amount and type of ear wax are genetically determined similar to hair color or height. It may not be easy for smaller or oddly shaped ear canals for the wax to get out of the canal lead to wax impactions and conductive hearing loss.

Narrowing Of The Ear Canal

Narrowing/obstruction of the ear canal or stenosis can occur due to genetic causes which can lead to conductive hearing loss.

Foreign Bodies

Foreign bodies can cause damage to the ear canal or ear drum, leading to conductive hearing loss.

Otitis Externa

Inflammation or infection of the outer ear is known as Otitis externa or swimmer’s ear which can occur due to moisture in your ear. In case left untreated, it can cause conductive hearing loss.


Exostoses are bone-like protrusions that can form inside the ear canal and cause likely conductive hearing loss

Middle Ear

Damage To The Tympanic Membrane

Perforation to the tympanic membrane or ear drum can be caused by injury, ear infections or extreme and rapid air pressure changes, resulting in conductive hearing loss.


Tympanosclerosis or thickening of the tympanic membrane can lead to a defect in sound conduction and hearing.

Otitis Media

Otitis media or infection of the middle ear can result in a buildup of fluid in the middle ear, causing obstruction in hearing.

Eustachian Tube Block

Obstruction in the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat, can be caused by allergies, common cold or increased altitude. It can cause changes in your hearing.


Otosclerosis is the freezing up of middle ear bones due to abnormal bone growth which results in obstruction in the transmission of sound through the middle ear.

Ossicular Chain Discontinuity

Break in the connection between the bones of the middle ear, caused by injury or heavy trauma can lead to disruption in the conduction of sounds, causing hearing loss.


Tumors or abnormal growths that form within the middle ear, such as cholesteatoma or glomus tumors can cause obstruction and conductive hearing loss.

Identifying the cause of hearing loss is one of the critical steps in the management of hearing loss. The management of hearing loss can focus on watchful observation, hearing aids, cochlear implants and treatment of other symptoms such as tinnitus and vertigo. In case, you are looking for a hearing aid, then our team of experts is happy to provide you assistance in making the right choice.

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