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What are the Most Common Causes of Deafness and Hearing Loss?

By Steve R.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Millions of people, particularly the elderly or children, suffer from deafness and hearing loss. Deafness is the total loss of ability to hear in one ear or two ears, while hearing loss is the decline in the ability to distinguish sounds. Common causes for deafness and hearing loss include genetics and issues occurring during pregnancy, childbirth, or childhood. Other frequent reasons include old age and exposure to loud noises.

Genetics is responsible for more than half of cases of infant deafness. If one or more parent is born deaf, it is probable that the offspring will also be born deaf. However, a person can also have genetic hearing loss without having a family member who was born deaf. Genetic hearing loss is the result of a mutation to at least one gene. One type of hereditary disorder is otosclerosis, which is characterized by the excessive growth of a bone inside the ear.

Deafness and hearing loss may also occur during a mother’s pregnancy and at childbirth. If a woman suffers from rubella, syphilis, or any other infectious disease during pregnancy, her child could be born with hearing loss. Other conditions, such as premature birth or lack of oxygen, are frequent causes of infant hearing loss. Childhood ailments caused by bacteria or viruses, such as meningitis, measles, constant ear infections, and mumps may also lead to hearing loss.

Another common cause for deafness and hearing loss is presbycusis, more commonly known as age-related hearing deficiency. As a person grows older, the inner mechanism of the ear grows less elastic and becomes less responsive to sound waves. Age-related hearing loss can begin in a person’s 20s, but typically becomes more prevalent after the age of 50.

Exposure to loud noises is also a major cause of deafness and hearing loss. Damage may occur after enduring loud noises over a length of time, but may also happen after a brief exposure to exceptionally loud sounds. Loud noise can damage the hair cells found in the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss, which can be temporary or permanent. Loud music, heavy machinery, and powered vehicles are commonly responsible for causing hearing loss.

In other instances, hearing loss may only be temporary. Generally, this is caused by a perforated eardrum as the result of an infection. Temporary hearing loss may also be the result of the narrowing of the ear canal related to surgery and overabundance of ear wax that blocks the ear canal.

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