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The Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss

a side view of a woman holding a hand to her ear

Acquired hearing loss refers to an auditory problem that develops after birth. Some people are born with hearing loss, and this is less common and referred to as congenital hearing loss. Most acquired hearing loss cases happen as we age or as a result of infection, noise or an accident. There are three types of hearing loss, with sensorineural hearing loss categorized as both congenital or acquired.

Acquired hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss that audiologists see in their line of work. It occurs when the inner ear is damaged, and then this can be due to the thousands of hair cells, the nerve pathways, or even the fluid being disrupted in the inner ear.

The hair cells in your inner ear carry sound into the brain by converting it to electrical signals. This is how the brain processes sound and how we make sense of the noises that we hear. When those fine hairs are damaged, it's permanent and they do not regenerate. We are born with all of the hair cells in the inner ear we will ever have, and they can be damaged through a blow, loud noises, and more, and any of this damage is called acquired hearing loss. Understanding the causes of acquired hearing loss makes it easier for your audiologist to explain to you what to do next.

Causes to be aware of

Acquired hearing loss is caused by several different factors and your audiologist will help you to understand those causes when you go to your appointment. Some of those of which you should be aware include:

  • Aging: As we get older, our hearing changes, and some of us deal with hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is the third most chronic health condition that people experience and as we age, hearing loss risks increase. With 50% of adults over 75 dealings with varying degrees of hearing loss, it's more important than ever to ensure that you attend regular audiologist appointments. Hearing loss as a result of aging is caused by changes in blood flow to the ear, as a side effect of existing medical conditions and changes in the structure of the ear itself.
  • Loud noise: Over the years, exposure to loud noise can damage the tiny hairs in the inner ear. This loud noise can be anything from loud music at a concert, noise from a loud lawnmower, or prolonged exposure to construction work. When we absorb levels of noise that damage the hair cells in the ear, the less we hear, and the more we risk excessive hearing loss. Anything above 85 decibels can harm your hearing. Given that over 30 million people across the USA are exposed to extreme noise levels, audiologists recommend wearing hearing protection when surrounded by a loud noise.
  • Trauma: Physical trauma can "knock out" your hair cells in your inner ear. Injuries to the head or the ear directly can cause acoustic trauma, and even things like being exposed to one-off loud noises such as excessively loud fireworks and explosives can cause hearing loss. Those in the military often deal with hearing loss as a result of being thrown back from explosions, too.
  • Medical conditions: Some conditions can result in acquired hearing loss, such as heart disease, viral infections, diabetes, and hypertension. Each of these conditions can impact inflammation, nerves from the ears to the brain, and blood flow. All of these are critical to your hearing system and your audiologist can help you to determine which part of the ear is dealing with any damage. Medications often have damage to the auditory system as a possible side effect, too, and as acquired hearing loss is permanent, it's important to understand what exactly causes the damage.

What are the symptoms?

Acquired hearing loss is permanent, and some of the symptoms include:

  • A reduction in the ability to hear others
  • An issue with the clarity of sound that you can hear
  • Quiet sounds are too quiet and louder sounds are too loud
  • High pitched sounds are much harder to hear
  • You find yourself increasing the volume on your TV and other electronic devices

Talk to us about treatment

While hearing loss cannot be cured, it's important to remember that you can treat hearing loss and help yourself to hear once again. There are effective ways to treat it and your audiologist will be able to talk you through how to get some help. Hearing tests are non-invasive and an effective way to determine the degree of hearing loss you're dealing with. Speak to the experts at Arkansas Professional Hearing Care by calling 501-614-7904. We can ensure that you improve the quality of your life!