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There are many ways that hearing loss can manifest. Any occurrence of hearing loss that occurs after birth is considered acquired hearing loss. The opposite of acquired hearing loss is congenital hearing loss, which is hearing loss that is present at birth.
Living with hearing loss can interfere with communication and our awareness of sounds in a space. Leaving hearing loss untreated can erode our most cherished relationships, affect our performance at work, cause depression, anxiety, insomnia and self-isolation. If hearing loss continues to be unaddressed then it can lead to a lack of a sense of independence, a greater risk of falls, accidents and an increase in risk of developing dementia.
Knowing the causes of acquired hearing loss can help you take steps to protect your hearing and avoid potential situations where your hearing could be put at risk. Below we will explore the major causes of acquired hearing loss.
When ear infections go untreated that can lead to serious side effects that ultimately can cause hearing loss. It is especially in instances of repeated infection when hearing loss is a more likely result. This often occurs during childhood but can have serious effects on hearing for an entire lifespan.
Ototoxic medications can cause permanent hearing damage. There are more than 450 prescription and over-the-counter medications that can cause damage to the inner ear, damaging the tiny hairs called cilia that communicate sound information to the brain.
These include but are not limited to antibiotics, painkillers, anti-anxiety, and anti-depression drugs, cancer treatment drugs, and blood pressure controlling medications. While sometimes the effects can be temporary many ototoxic medications cause permanent damage. It is important to know which pose the most threat. Talk to your doctor about your concerns about your medications.
Virus and Diseases
Some viruses can cause congenital hearing loss, while others result in acquired hearing loss later in life. Certain viruses can be in either of the categories.
- German Measles, or Rubella. Before mass vaccination, measles accounted for 5-10% of all cases of hearing loss. Transmitted through saliva measles can cause congenital or acquired hearing loss.
- Mumps. In the same family as measles, if detected soon enough and treated hearing issues can be reversed or avoided.
- Other viral infections. This include include Encephalitis (an viral infection of the brain), chicken pox and even the common flu
Any head injury can have a slew of negative cognitive effects. Did you know that head trauma can also cause serious hearing and balance issues? During impact an ear drum could rupture, the fragile inner ear could sustain damage or the auditory pathway which communicates sounds with the brain could become blocked causing permanent or temporary hearing damage. Besides hearing loss, head trauma can also cause tinnitus (a ringing of the ears which comes from no external source) or balance issues causing vertigo and dizziness.
Noise-induced hearing loss
When your ears are exposed to loud sounds your inner ear can sustain permanent damage. This is referred to as noise induced hearing loss can manifest at any age. It is not just the level of the sound which can damage your ears but the duration of the sound.
Sounds are measured in decibels. When a sound exceeds 85 decibels your ears are at risk. Generally, a low level of sound will take time to create serious hearing loss. For instance if you are exposed to sounds that are 85+ decibels, day after day at work, hearing damage can gradually occur. However a sound with extremely high decibels, such as an explosion, can cause noise induced hearing loss in a matter of seconds.
Protect your hearing health
If you can understand the causes of hearing loss you can take the steps to treat issues quickly before they become a problem.
Treating hearing loss brings many benefits, from improving communication with your loved ones to reconnecting you to the sounds of your life! Most forms of hearing loss can be treated using hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify the sounds around you allowing you to hear sounds that would otherwise be undetected due to hearing damage.