According to the World Health Organization, over 430 million people worldwide suffer from disabling hearing loss. While it is much more prevalent in low- and middle-income countries, hearing loss is not uncommon in high-income countries.
You might be wondering what the main causes of hearing loss are. In the vast majority of cases, it is caused by genetic factors and perinatal morbidities, as well as chronic diseases and sensorineural degeneration. However, there are many other things that can impact your hearing.
Do you want to educate yourself on the topic? If that is the case, then you are in the right place. In this article, we will try to explain what the most common causes of hearing loss are and whether it can actually be prevented.
Causes of hearing loss?
Various types of hearing loss can be caused by different factors. Some of them include:
- Chronic diseases (diabetes mellitus, hypertension, etc.)
- Some medications (isoniazid, aminoglycosides, quinine, etc.)
- Ear trauma and other types of trauma
- Exposure to loud noises (that is why doctors advise sticking to the safe headphone volume)
- Some infectious diseases (tuberculosis, syphilis, etc.)
Age can also impact your hearing. Over time, the inner ear degenerates, which leads to gradual hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the cochlea or auditory nerve, and it is the leading cause of permanent and irreversible hearing impairment. This type of hearing loss usually affects people older than 55 years.
Another type of hearing loss that can occur is conductive hearing loss. It can be caused by an accumulation of wax or fluids in the middle ear. Treatment usually includes removing these deposits or using medicines to solve the problem.
How to prevent hearing loss
Unfortunately, preventing hearing loss that occurs because of aging or genetics is not possible. However, you can stay cautious and avoid other types of hearing loss.
If you work with loud noises most of the time, purchase the earplugs; there are various types of them available on the market. Look for the ones that reduce noise as much as possible without distorting the sounds too much.
It is also essential to educate children early about the dangers of loud noises; don’t let them play with loud toys or listen to the loud music. Besides, children should always wear protective headgear when playing sports or riding bicycles to avoid trauma.
Another way to prevent hearing loss is to avoid smoking and consuming alcohol. Increased blood pressure caused by smoking can lead to hearing loss, while alcohol makes you more susceptible to various infections.
Get your hearing tested regularly, especially if you are exposed to loud noises at work or if you have experienced a serious illness or trauma. Some infections can lead to hearing loss that becomes apparent only months or even years after you recovered.
How to test your hearing?
In order to test your hearing, you should go to a clinic or a laboratory where they have the proper equipment available. In most cases, the doctor will use an audiometer – a hearing testing machine.
When you put on the headphones and turn on the audiometer, you will hear a series of sounds gradually increasing in frequency. At first, you will listen to very low tones, but as they will become louder, you will stop hearing them.
The machine will record the sounds you heard and calculate your hearing threshold. If your hearing has been damaged, a doctor can determine what kind of hearing loss you might be suffering from and what can be done about it.
Some ways to restore hearing?
There are two main ways to restore hearing after it has been damaged: implants and medication. As for medications, steroids can sometimes help with sudden hearing loss. If the hearing loss was caused by wax buildup, the doctor will usually prescribe you ear drops or flush the wax out using water. You can also try to get rid of earwax yourself (just be careful).
A hearing aid (a small electronic device worn near your ear) may be helpful if your condition is not very serious. And, if your hearing loss is permanent, you can get a hearing implant that will transmit sounds directly into your brain.
Hearing is an integral part of your life, as it allows you to communicate with other people. Losing your hearing can be a very traumatic experience, especially if it happens at some point in your conscious life. However, there are ways to deal with it.
You can prevent hearing loss by avoiding loud noise, wearing protective headgear, and using hearing protection devices. If you have been experiencing hearing loss, don’t hesitate to seek help. Visit a doctor who will examine your hearing and prescribe treatment. If the medications don’t help, you can usually rely on various hearing aids or implants.
Elena Deeley did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.