One of the most frequent questions I get in my office is “What caused my hearing loss?” Although it’s hard to know definitely, there are often clues that are tied to our life experiences and genetics. The accompanying graphic outlines some of the key causes – let’s visit each of them briefly:
1) Exposure to loud noise: Also referred to as Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), it is one of the most prevalent causes of hearing loss today in both young and old. Many of us never wore hearing protection while working or playing around loud equipment, and even though it may not have always hurt our ears, the constancy of it, as in a machine shop – would have left it’s mark on our inner-ear nerve endings. Alternately, a single gunshot can cause immediate, irreparable damage. Listening to hours of music pumped into our ears through earbuds is the common cause of loss among the young.
2) Natural Aging: As our eyes age, many of us suddenly need to start wearing glasses – this is called presbyopia. Something similar happens with our hearing. It’s referred to as presbycusis, and for most of us – it also is just part of getting older. There’s nothing fair about it.
3) Heredity: It’s true, the genes we inherited may be part of our problem. If you’ve noticed that several folks in your family are suffering from hearing loss – that may be part of the reason it is affecting you also. Unfortunately – we can’t choose our relatives, right?
4) Head Injuries: Many of my clients have shared stories of how they started suffering from Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) after they experienced some kind of head trauma. Often, it never goes away. Many times, tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of damage, be it physical or auditory (loud noises). But whether tinnitus results from such trauma or not, the underlying damage to the auditory system is often permanent.
5) Ototoxic Medications: There are numerous studies out explaining how both prescription and over-the-counter medications can damage our delicate auditory system. These can include such simple things as Aspirin, antibiotics, or Ibuprofen. If you are taking regular medications, it would be wise to research the side affects relative to your hearing, and if you have a choice of alternate drugs that might work that are NOT ototoxic, your hearing will thank you.
6) Illness: This is a pretty generic cause, but the point is that any illness that affects us can have deleterious consequences on our hearing as well. You might think of the delicate tissue of our auditory system like the canary in the mine – sometimes it’s damage is an early symptom of other issues that are affecting us, such as diabetes.
What to do? Whatever may have caused the hearing loss, the result is that it’s affect on our life can be significant, and failure to address it can result in early Cognitive Decline, Social Isolation, Depression, and a host of other things that detract from our ability to enjoy life. If you think you suffer from Hearing Loss, the first thing is to have your hearing evaluated by a trained Hearing Care Provider. This will determine 2) to what degree the loss exists, and 2) whether your type of loss can be helped with hearing aids or not. Don’t wait – you can reach me at 307-254-9633 or by going to the Contact page on this site and sending me a note. The consultation is free.