Causes of Hearing loss

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The causes of hearing loss and deafness can be sorted out into congenital or acquired.

Pregnant woman

Congenital causes. These result in hearing loss either when a child is born or shortly afterwards. The loss could be due to hereditary or nonhereditary factors, or because of complications during pregnancy or childbirth. For example:

  • Maternal rubella, syphilis or other infections during pregnancy.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Perinatal asphyxia (a lack of oxygen during childbirth).
  • Inappropriate use of certain medications, such as aminoglycosides, cytotoxic agents, antimalarial drugs and diuretics.
  • Severe jaundice during the neonatal period, as it can damage the newborn’s.
Bacteria of the intestinal microbiota in a petri dish

Acquired causes. These can trigger hearing loss at any age.

  • Certain infectious diseases, for example, meningitis, measles or mumps.
  • A chronic ear infection.
  • Fluid in the middle ear (otitis media).
  • The use of certain medications.
  • Traumatic head or ear injuries.
  • Exposure to excessive noise.
  • Ageing, specifically the degeneration of sensory (hair) cells.
  • Obstruction of the ear canal with cerumen (wax) or a foreign body.

Risk factors associated with Hearing loss

Factors that can damage or initiate the loss of hair cells and nerve cells in the inner ear:

Woman growing older from childhood to old age

Age. The delicate internal structures of the ear gradually degenerate with the passing of time.

Noise or very loud sound

Exposure to loud noises. Very loud sounds can damage cells in the inner ear. They can be damaged by continual exposure (e.g., working in a noisy atmosphere without adequate protection or continually listening to loud music) or due to a short-lived but very loud sound (e.g., a shotgun being fired or fireworks exploding).

Family and family tree indicating hereditary factors

Hereditary factors. A certain genetic makeup may make some people more susceptible to damage caused by loud noises or greater deterioration as they get older.

Medicines, pills

Certain medicines. Some medications have a temporary or permanent harmful effect on the ear, for example the aminoglycoside class of antibiotics including streptomycin and quinine.

Anatomy of the ear

Certain diseases. Some infectious diseases, such as meningitis or measles, which cause high fevers, can damage cochlea cells.

Substantiated information by:

Ignacio Berdejo Gago
Miguel Caballero Borrego

Published: 18 May 2018
Updated: 18 May 2018

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