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Hearing Loss (cont.)

Hearing Loss Causes

There are 2 basic types of hearing loss, which are called conductive and sensorineural.

  • Conductive causes: Conductive hearing losses result from physical problems with the movement of the sound wave through the ear. A simple example is blockage of the ear canal.
    • Obstructed external ear canal - Cerumen (wax) build-up, hematoma (blood collection), or foreign body in the ear canal. This is one of the most common causes of hearing loss and the easiest to fix.
    • Perforated tympanic membrane - Caused by direct trauma such as a finger or cotton swab, middle-ear infections (otitis media), or explosions (blast injury)
    • Dislocated ossicle (malleus, incus, or stapes) - Usually from trauma to the ear
    • Otitis media - Middle ear infection
    • Otitis externa - Infection of the ear canal that causes it to swell
    • Retraction of the tympanic membrane (ear drum) toward the middle ear. This may be associated with a collection of skin called a cholesteatoma
  • Sensorineural causes: Sensorineural causes are from damage to the hair cells or nerves that sense sound waves.
    • Acoustic trauma - Prolonged exposure to loud noises causes the hair cells on the cochlea to become less sensitive.
    • Barotrauma (pressure trauma) or ear squeeze - Usually in divers
    • Head trauma - A fracture of the temporal bone can disrupt the nerves of the auditory system or the cochlea directly
    • Ototoxic drugs - Certain drugs can affect hearing by damaging the nerves involved in hearing. Usually this occurs when large or toxic doses are used but may also occur with lower doses.
    • Antibiotics including aminoglycosides (gentamicin, vancomycin), erythromycins, and minocycline
    • Diuretics including furosemide and ethacrynic acid
    • Salicylates (aspirin) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen
    • Antineoplastics (cancer drugs)
    • Vascular diseases (problems with blood vessels) include sickle cell disease, diabetes, leukemia, polycythemia, and diseases in which excessive blood clotting occurs.
    • Children and adults with kidney problems are more susceptible to sensorineural hearing loss.
    • Ménière disease - A disease that affects hearing and balance. It is usually associated with tinnitus (ringing in the ears). It has a gradual onset and may progress to deafness and severe vertigo. The cause is unknown, but thought to be associated with fluid shifts in the inner ear.
    • Acoustic neuroma - A tumor in the auditory nerve. Usually associated with ringing in the ears.
  • Infections, include some occurring during pregnancy and soon after birth in neonates.
  • Aging (presbycusis) 
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/4/2014
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