The Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss

The Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss
Cyndi Connolly

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a hearing loss that develops after birth is an acquired hearing loss. Hearing loss can strike at any point in one’s life due to illness or injury. Unlike congenital hearing loss – hearing loss that happens at birth due to genetics – acquired hearing loss has several causes due to external issues. Here, we explore the different causes of acquired hearing loss.

Presbycusis (Age-Related Hearing Loss)

One of the most common forms of acquired hearing loss, presbycusis – or age-related hearing loss – occurs due to the natural process of aging. 

As we get older (and perhaps in conjunction with a lifetime of exposure to noises), our inner ear hair cells naturally decline. The inner ear hair cells are responsible for translating sound vibrations into neural signals recognized by the brain as sound through auditory processing. Once these cells die, they do not regenerate. As a result, this leads to sensorineural hearing loss. Presbycusis is one cause of sensorineural hearing loss.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is the other common form of sensorineural hearing loss. Exposure to loud noises, whether in a single event or over a long period, may cause noise-induced hearing loss. 

Hearing specialists indicate that sounds louder than 85 decibels could lead to permanent hearing damage after one hour of exposure. To put this into context, the average conversation clocks in at 65 decibels. The sound of a jet engine taking off is around 120 decibels. At 120 decibels, one could sustain permanent hearing damage.

Unlike presbycusis, noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable if you take the proper measures to protect your hearing. Using earplugs or custom-made hearing protection when exposed to loud sounds, whether on the job or during leisure activities, could help prevent noise-induced hearing loss. 

Certain Medications

The term “ototoxic” means “poisonous to the ear.” There are at least 100 classes of drugs that have been found to cause ototoxicity, including aspirin and quinine (known to cause temporary ototoxicity and tinnitus), loop diuretics (“water pills”) whose ototoxicity is increased when used with aminoglycoside antibiotics, all antibiotics classified as aminoglycoside (in which streptomycin is included), and certain cancer-fighting drugs such as cisplatin and carboplatin. 

Ototoxic medications damage the inner ear hair cells, which leads to sensorineural hearing loss. While many ototoxic drugs are ordinary and necessary for use in a range of medical situations, they are also not understood to be ototoxic until they have caused hearing loss in a large population of patients. 

That said, drugs still cause hearing loss only in rare circumstances. If you have been prescribed medication by your doctor, please continue to follow their directions. If you experience changes in your hearing, bring this up to your doctor at your next visit. 

Complications of certain medical conditions/injuries

According to ASHA, the following illnesses could lead to hearing loss: ear infections, meningitis, measles, encephalitis, chickenpox, flu, and mumps. Furthermore, injuries to the head and neck area may affect one’s hearing. Tumors that press on various auditory apparatus could cause hearing loss as well. 

One’s overall health and well-being also contribute to hearing health. People who exercise regularly, do not smoke or drink to excess, and have healthy diets tend to have less risk for hearing loss. 

What you can do about Acquired Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is an invisible condition, which makes it difficult to recognize at first. Therefore, it is essential to pay attention to the signs of hearing loss. 

Suppose you find it challenging to recognize speech and regularly ask people to repeat themselves. In that case, this could indicate a hearing loss. If your TV and phone volume are turned to maximum volume, and you still struggle to hear, you may have a hearing loss.

Hearing loss occurs gradually, often over a long period. While it affects people of all ages, it is most commonly found among older Americans above 65. Hearing specialists recommend taking hearing tests annually from the age of 50 to monitor your hearing abilities. 

If you are concerned about your hearing, we’re here to help! We provide comprehensive hearing health services, including hearing tests. If a hearing loss is found, we will work with you to find the best path forward and help you get back to living your life. Contact us today!