Six Common Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has many causes, and not all of them are obvious. Learn more about some of the most surprising causes of hearing loss and learn how to keep yourself safe.
Most people with hearing loss don’t know that they have it or don’t know how severe it is. One reason for this is because hearing loss is much more common than most people realize. Here are a few common causes of hearing difficulty that could affect you or your loved ones. Learn about the causes and how they can be dealt with.
Buildup of Earwax
One common and preventable cause of hearing loss is a buildup of excess earwax. Earwax is normal and healthy for the ears, but too much of it can lead to hearing impairment and other problems.
Earwax buildup can be caused in many ways. The most common cause is gradual accumulation over time. However, it can also be due to exposure to loud noise or a buildup of impacted earwax - a “plug” of hardened wax that forms when it is pushed deep into the ear canal with cotton swabs or other implements.
Fortunately hearing loss due to earwax buildup can usually be corrected. A physician or hearing specialist will clean your ears with special tools and solutions that won’t damage your inner ear. However, earwax buildup can also lead to other problems including infections or lesions in the inner ear.
Another common cause of hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear itself. A perforated eardrum is a condition caused by physical damage to the eardrum membrane. This damage can be from almost anything, including exposure to sudden loud noises (like explosions), severe ear infections, or damage caused by a foreign object (such as a cotton swab or needle) inserted into the ear. Skull fractures and head injuries can also cause perforations by moving the bones of the ear and skull out of place.
Eardrum perforations vary in severity and can cause other symptoms. Small perforations may not cause much hearing loss, but larger perforations could cause immediate and profound hearing loss. Other symptoms of a perforated eardrum are tinnitus (ringing in the ear), discharge, and ear pain. If you experience any of these symptoms you should see a doctor right away for treatment.
Weight and hearing don’t seem to have much in common, but in fact a person’s weight can affect many other body parts and systems. Recently, researchers have found a connection between hearing health and body weight, especially in people with lots of belly fat or a large waist size. These factors are often correlated with a higher level of visceral fat - fat deposits around the internal organs.
Visceral fat is more damaging to health than subcutaneous fat - fat deposits found under the skin. Unlike subcutaneous fat, visceral fat secretes hormones and toxins which damage other body parts, including the sensitive nerve endings and mechanisms of the inner ear. In turn, this damage can lead to hearing loss (as well as many other health problems) over time.
The best way to deal with this issue is to lose weight and reduce the level of visceral fat. A balanced, healthy diet with lots of fiber and a healthy level of age-appropriate exercise can reduce the level of visceral fat and prevent or reduce hearing damage.
Diabetes and Prediabetes
Along with high levels of fat, high blood glucose levels are also bad for the body in many ways. Research indicates that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in people without the condition. This could be due to blood vessel damage in the inner ear due to the high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes or prediabetes.
Unfortunately diabetes is not a condition with a simple cure. If you’re diabetic or prediabetic, or your doctor suspects you could have diabetes, you need to take steps to manage your condition immediately. Some common treatments for diabetes include dietary changes, exercise, and regular monitoring of blood glucose levels.
Sleep apnea is a relatively common but serious sleep disorder. Sleep apnea causes people to periodically stop breathing while they sleep, leading to a lack of oxygen in the blood stream and other potential problems. It is most common in men over age 40, especially if they are overweight or have a family history of the condition.
Along with increased risk of heart disease and other conditions, sleep apnea also raises the risk of hearing loss. Researchers aren’t sure what causes the connection between sleep apnea and hearing, but they have several theories. The most probable cause is that sleep apnea and oxygen deprivation damages the sensitive blood vessels in the inner ear.
There are treatments for sleep apnea that can help prevent this damage. Most doctors require patients to undergo a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea. They will then recommend treatments like weight loss, exercise, lifestyle changes, or the use of a medical device like a CPAP machine.
Not Wearing a Hearing Aid
Finally, one last common cause of hearing loss is not treating existing hearing loss. As hearing loss gets worse, the nerves and brain connections in the ear lose stimulation and sensitivity. Without treatment, the brain gradually loses the ability to process and recognize sounds. This, in turn, causes people to lose hearing ability faster than when they have hearing assistance.
In contrast, when people use hearing aids they are often able to maintain their current levels of hearing. Hearing aids help stimulate the nerves in the ear and brain, protecting the hearing ability that exists. In effect, hearing aids don’t just help treat hearing loss - they actually preserve hearing ability and prevent losses from getting worse.
Get Your Hearing Tested Today
If you think you or a loved one could be suffering from untreated hearing loss, contact us today at Audio Recovery in Oklahoma City. Our team of expert audiologists will diagnose hearing issues and develop a plan to treat them effectively. Call us now at (405) 949-1906 or visit us on Facebook to learn more.
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