As we grow older, our bodies deteriorate with time. Aging is a natural process, and hearing loss is a common consequence. Since we all experience hearing loss as we age, it’s essential to understand the top seven causes of hearing loss so we can take care of our ears and prevent any potential problems.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that around one in three people between 65 and 74 years have hearing loss, and almost half of those over 75 struggle with hearing difficulties. That’s a lot of people.
So, let’s dive into the seven most common causes of hearing loss as we age.
Top 7 Causes of Hearing Loss as You Age
Presbycusis is just a fancy way of saying age-related hearing loss. As we age, the tiny hair cells in our inner ears start to wear down, and this gradual hearing loss usually affects both ears equally. As a result, the first sounds we tend to lose are high-pitched sounds, like birds chirping or the doorbell ringing. Once you notice this, it’s best to seek medical intervention immediately.
2. Exposure to Noise and Harsh Sounds
Another cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud noises over an extended period, which can damage the hair cells in our inner ears and lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). It’s not just loud music that can cause this; long-term exposure to machinery or firearms noise can also foster it. So, be careful.
3. Ototoxic Medications
Certain medications, including antibiotics, diuretics, and chemotherapy drugs, can affect the inner ear. In this case, the damage to the inner ear is called ototoxic hearing loss, which can be temporary or permanent.
4. Genetics and Heredity
Research has shown that genetic disorders like Usher and Waardenburg syndrome can cause hearing loss. However, hearing loss can also be hereditary, so it’s worth checking if anyone in your family has experienced age-related hearing loss.
5. Diseases and Medical Conditions
Certain diseases and medical conditions can also lead to hearing loss. Examples include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Meniere’s disease, which can lead to a disorder of the inner ear and, if not attended to, could escalate to vertigo and hearing loss.
6. Buildup of Earwax
While earwax is a natural substance that helps protect our ear canals, too much of it can build up and cause hearing loss. It’s important to get our ears checked regularly to ensure we don’t have an excess earwax buildup.
7. Traumatic Experiences
Lastly, trauma to the head or ear can damage our inner ear and cause hearing loss. Post-traumatic deafness can occur from a single event, like a car accident, or repetitive trauma, such as playing contact sports.
Various factors can result in hearing loss, some of which are preventable and others that are not. We should take care of our ears by wearing ear protection in noisy environments, getting regular check-ups, and avoiding medications that may be ototoxic. And if you suspect you have hearing loss, it’s crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible for early intervention.