With normal ear function, sound waves enter your ear and vibrate your eardrum and middle ear bones, then travel through to the cochlea which sets in motion thousands of tiny hairs that convert the vibrations into nerve impulses. Those impulses then travel to the brain where they are processed into sounds your brain can process.
Your ears are a complex organ and damage to any of its crucial parts can lead to different types of hearing loss.Hearing loss can be due to a range of causes including genetics, illness, loud noises or aging.
As you age, the structures in your ear lose elasticity and the tiny hairs responsible for interpreting vibrations can become damaged. No matter your health, hearing loss is often due to aging and the deterioration of delicate inner ear structures over time.
Illness or Infection
Hearing loss can also be caused by ear-related diseases or infections. Ear infections cause fluid to build up in the middle ear and block sounds from getting through. Although hearing loss due to infection is usually temporary, untreated infections can cause long-term problems.
Some ear-related diseases can also cause hearing loss including:
- Otosclerosis – a disease that affects the movement of the tiny bones in the middle ear.
- Ménière’s disease – a disease that affects inner ear function and often comes with symptoms of dizziness, ringing in the ear and sensitivity to loud noises.
- Autoimmune inner ear disease – a rare inflammatory condition of the inner ear that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks crucial cells in the inner ear.
Exposure to loud noises, especially long-term, can damage hair cells and worsen regular ear function. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused when the ears are exposed to loud, lasting noises that cause permanent damage to normal ear function. These loud noises can range from recreational activities such as hunting or working in a loud setting like a factory.
These are just some of the many things that can damage your hearing. If you or a loved one is suffering from hearing loss, it’s important to consider seeing a hearing health specialist for a hearing test and to discuss treatment options.