What Causes Hearing Loss?

What Causes Hearing Loss?

You may be surprised to learn that hearing loss is one of the most common health issues that people live with today. Over 48 million people, or 1 in 5, have some degree of hearing loss. Additionally, the World Health Organization estimated that over 1 billion people globally are at high risk of developing hearing loss. It is important to learn more about hearing loss so that you can practice ways to protect your hearing health. 


Hearing loss is a medical condition that reduces one’s ability to hear and process speech as well as sound. This produces a range of symptoms that makes hearing and communication challenging. There are several factors that can contribute to the development of hearing loss. A few of the most common causes include: 

  1. Aging: The risk of developing age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, increases with age. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that: 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have some degree of hearing loss. This increases to 1 in 3 adults, ages 75 and older, who have disabling hearing loss. This can be caused by a few factors including the cumulative impact of loud noise on the auditory system, changes to the ears that may be experienced over time, and existing medical conditions that are linked to hearing loss. 
  1. Loud noise: one time or regular exposure to loud noise can irreparably damage hearing. Loud noise can desensitize the sensory cells in the inner ear. There are thousands of sensory cells in the cochlea which convert incoming sound waves into electrical signals. These signals get sent to the brain where they are further processed and assigned meaning to, allowing us to understand what we hear. Loud noise can weaken sensory cells, preventing them from effectively processing soundwaves. It is estimated that over 22 million people are exposed to hazardous noise levels in the workplace. Listening to audio using headphones or earbuds, and navigating social settings are additional common ways that people are exposed to loud noise. 
  1. Medical conditions: substantial research shows that there are several medical conditions that can increase the risk of developing hearing loss. This includes heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, and diabetes. These conditions can affect blood flow, blood vessels, and bone health which are all essential components of how we hear and process sound. 
  1. Head injuries: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that  more than 3 million head injuries occur every year. Head injuries can range from mild to severe – concussions to traumatic brain injuries. Extreme force to the head can damage integral components of the auditory system – bones, sensory cells, and areas of the brain that are responsible for processing sound. 

Additional causes of hearing loss include inner ear disorders, chronic ear infections, and autoimmune conditions. 


Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so symptoms can remain unnoticed for quite some time. Early signs of hearing loss include: 

  • Tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears that only you can hear. 
  • Sounds are muffled or distorted. 
  • Struggling to keep up with conversations, especially in places with background noise. 
  • Hearing over the phone is difficult. 
  • Lip reading to help identify individual words. 
  • Pretending to hear to get through a conversation. 
  • Asking others to repeat what they said, speak louder, and/or slower. 
  • Increasing the volume on your TV, phone, speaker etc. 
  • Needing to move to a quieter area/room to hear. 
  • Being able to hear more clearly out of one ear compared to the other. 
  • Feeling tired or drained after conversations and social interactions. 

These symptoms can range from mild to more severe depending on the degree of hearing loss a person is experiencing. To cope, people often avoid conversations as much as possible. Social withdrawal is another symptom of hearing loss and this can affect relationships, social life, and mental health. 


Fortunately, there are effective ways hearing loss is treated. Treatment starts by having your hearing evaluated by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures your hearing capacities in both ears. Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. These electronic devices provide ample hearing support, alleviating symptoms and maximizing hearing capacity. Hearing aids not only transform hearing health, but also strengthen communication, relationships, social life, and overall health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation so you can learn more about your hearing health!