Hearing loss or impairment is caused by damage or malfunction in one or more parts of the inner ear. Below is a quick guide to the possible causes of this auditory dysfunction.

What causes hearing loss? 

Hearing loss can appear at any age and be caused by a number of factors. This auditory dysfunction – which may be mild, moderate, severe or profound – is known as unilateral hearing loss or single-sided deafness (SSD) when it only affects one ear, or bilateral hearing loss when it affects both.

It is important to remember that the later hearing loss is diagnosed, the more significant it will be. It may also be harder to prevent its progression and adapt to available solutions, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Factors that cause hearing loss or impairment

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), the causes of hearing loss can be classified as congenital or acquired.

Congenital factor

Congenital factors can cause hearing loss or impairment at birth or shortly after birth.

These factors can be hereditary or non-hereditary, or may sometimes stem from complications during pregnancy and/or labour as a result of:

  • Low birth weight
  • Birth asphyxia: the baby is deprived of oxygen during birth
  • Severe neonatal jaundice: the yellowing of the baby’s skin and mucous membranes caused by high levels of bilirubin
  • Maternal rubella, syphilis or other infections during pregnancy
  • The misuse or abuse of certain medications: aminoglucosides, cytotoxic or anti-malaria drugs and diuretics

Acquired factors

On the other hand, acquired causes can cause hearing loss at any age and may stem from:

  • Exposure to excessively loud noise: explosions, environmental noise in the work place, leisure activities (bars, nightclubs, concerts, sports events, etc.)
  • Ageing: with advancing age, there is a gradual deterioration of the sensory cells
  • Infectious diseases: meningitis, measles, mumps
  • Chronic ear infections: recurring or long-term inflammation or infection behind the eardrum
  • Fluid in the ear
  • Certain ototoxic drugs, malaria or drug-resistant tuberculosis
  • Major head or ear injuries
  • Blockages in the ear canal caused by wax or foreign bodies

Now you know more about the factors than can cause hearing loss. We recommend you book an appointment with your doctor immediately if you detect any warning signs of possible hearing loss.