Hearing loss is a decrease in the ability to hear. It can vary in degree of loss and occur in one or both ears. There are three parts of the ear. Problems that contribute to hearing loss can occur in one or more of these parts.Hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions in the United States. Although it affects people of all ages, the numbers increase significantly with age. Hearing loss is the most common birth defect. Approximately half of the cases of hearing loss in children result from genetic factors. Problems during birth or soon after can also lead to hearing loss, such as lack of oxygen, severe jaundice , or bleeding in the brain. Two of the most common causes of hearing loss in older adults are presbycusis and tinnitus. Presbycusis develops slowly as a person ages, especially after age 50, and continues to worsen. It is caused by a combination of hereditary and environmental factors, including exposure to noise and smoking. This condition makes it hard for a person to hear normal conversation and tolerate loud sounds. It sometimes involves permanent damage of the inner ear structures or nerve pathways in the ear leading to the brain.Tinnitus is ringing, hissing, or roaring sounds in the ears. It can occur with any kind of hearing loss and often is caused by loud noise or certain medications. The condition can also be a sign of other health problems, such as allergies and heart and blood vessel conditions. Tinnitus can occur on and off and can stop completely.
|Anatomy of the Ear|
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- Blockage by ear wax
- Fluid in the middle ear
- Ear infection, also known as otitis media
- Otosclerosis —a disorder of the bones in the middle ear
- Hole in the eardrum
- Abnormalities in the outer ear, middle ear, or ear canal
- Defect at birth that causes complete closure of the ear canal
- Trauma leading to disruption of the bones in the middle ear
- Excess noise
- Birth injury
- Hereditary factors
- Exposure to toxic substances, including drugs like:
- Chemotherapy drugs
- Heart medications
- Aspirin-containing drugs
- Tumors like acoustic neuroma
- Cardiovascular disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Viruses such as measles , mumps , adenovirus, and rubella
- History of meningitis or syphilis
- Neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis and stroke
- Inner ear disorders such as Meniere’s disease
- Otosclerosis affecting the inner ear
- Previous brain or ear surgery causing damage to the inner ear
- External trauma to the ear
Basic facts about hearing loss. Hearing Loss Association of America website. Available at: http://www.hearingloss.org/content/basic-facts-about-hearing-loss . Accessed September 18, 2013.
Hearing impairment in elderly. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated September 13, 2013. Accessed September 18, 2013.
Hearing loss. NIH SeniorHealth website. Available at: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/hearingloss/hearinglossdefined/01.html . Accessed September 18, 2013.
Hearing loss in children. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dd/ddhi.htm . Updated March 22, 2013. Accessed September 18, 2013.
Isaacson JE, Vora NM. Differential diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss. Am Fam Physician. 2003;68:1125-1132.
Type, degree, and configuration of hearing loss. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/types.htm?print=1 . Accessed September 18, 2013.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2014
- Update Date: 09/17/2014