Causes of Hearing Loss in Adults

Hearing loss is the third common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease. Approximately 20 percent of adults in the United States report some degree of hearing loss. By age 65, one out of three people has hearing loss.

Hearing loss in adults can either be genetically inherited or acquired from illness, ear-damaging drugs, exposure to loud noise, tumors, head injury, or the normal aging process.

  • Otosclerosis
    • Typically affects the middle ear and affects the movement of the tiny bones in the middle ear.
  • Ménière’s disease
    • Affects the inner ear, and usually begins between the ages of 30 and 50. Some people may report mild symptoms, while others experience much worse symptoms. Medical management by a doctor and audiologist is typical for individuals experiencing this disease.
  • Autoimmune inner ear disease
    • This disease can have a sudden-onset where the hearing loss is fast and dramatic, so immediate medical attention is recommended.
  • Ear-damaging drugs
    • Certain medications are known to possibly cause hearing loss, such as loop diuretics (Lasix), salicylates in large amounts (Aspirin), aminoglycoside antibiotics (Streptomycin, Neomycin), or drugs used in chemotherapy (Cisplatin, Carboplatin).
  • Loud noise
    • Exposure to loud nose can lead to hearing loss, which usually develops gradually and painlessly. Listening to loud noises for a prolonged period of time can damage the hair cells in the inner ear.
  • Tumor
    • An acoustic neuroma is an example of a tumor that can cause hearing loss.
  • Physical head injury
    • A traumatic brain injury can result in hearing loss.
  • Presbycusis
    • This typically occurs gradually later in life. The condition affects hearing in both ears over time, and can affect your speech as things can sound muffled or unclear because the ability to hear high pitch sounds is diminished.

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