Causes of Hearing Loss - A guide to Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be caused by many things such as age, over exposure to loud noise, hay fever, an injury, side effects of certain medicines, ear blockage or colds and congestion.

It can also be caused any one of a number of ear conditions such as tinnitus, otitis media or otosclerosis. Even something relatively mild such as ear wax can cause problems if it is allowed to build up in the ear. Other less well known factors include ear piercing, cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or infections such as mumps or measles. Many of these cause hearing loss later on in life but some people start life with impaired hearing or a total inability to hear any sound or noise. Whether you view a complete lack of hearing as an extreme form of hearing loss or as deafness is still open to debate but the fact remains that the ear cannot function as normal which for some people, impacts upon their quality of life.

You will probably be familiar with many of these causes but may be surprised by some of the others. The two most common causes of hearing loss are age and noise exposure. These causes of hearing loss can be separated into those which are temporary and those which have occurred as a result of a genetic disorder and are therefore permanent.

Colds and hearing loss

One particular cause of hearing loss is that of a head cold. All of us have suffered from colds at some time or the other and whilst they are unpleasant they usually resolve themselves after a few days.

A cold can mean a stuffy nose, headache and blocked ears. The ears become blocked due to an excess of mucus which in some cases can lead to an ear infection. But this along with the other symptoms, clears after a few days.

Hay fever and hearing loss

If you are a hay fever suffer then you may find that this also affects your hearing. Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen which leads to watery eyes, sneezing, headaches and a blocked nose and can be a miserable state of affairs. Your blocked nose is caused by an inflammation of your nasal passageways and Eustachian tubes which allows a build up of fluid within the middle ear. This build up of fluid results in temporary hearing loss.

Hay fever medication such as antihistamine tablets or an anti-inflammatory nasal spray will resolve this problem.

Flying and hearing loss

Another short-lived form of hearing loss is pain in the ears when flying which is caused by a build up of air pressure. Normally, air pressure in the ears is kept in balance by the Eustachian tube but if this balance is upset then the ear feels blocked and can be painful. This is more of a problem as the plane ascends and descends due to the change in air pressure which causes a pocket of air to form in the inner ear. This is eased if your ears ‘pop’ but if they don’t then you end up with painful ears and impaired hearing. This problem usually resolves itself but you can unblock your ears by yawning or sucking a boiled sweet on take off and landing.

Other causes of hearing loss are discussed as a series of individual pages. Note: if your form of hearing loss happens overnight or after a few days then see your GP.

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