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Causes and Types of Hearing Loss

diagram of inner ear

Hearing loss is a common problem that affects millions of people worldwide. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, 360 million people suffer from some form of hearing loss. That's a lot of people! So, what are the most common causes of this condition?

To better understand the causes, it's important to also know what types of hearing loss people may be afflicted by. This can range from age-related to inner ear damage, which can occur for different reasons.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)

Hearing loss happens when there is damage to the inner ear, which can be caused by exposure to loud noises over a long period of time. The most common type of hearing loss is called "sensorineural" or SNHL. This means that the problem lies in your nerves and not with your ears themselves. In other words, it's not a physical problem like an infection or blockage in one of those tubes that lead into your ear canal.

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when your ears have been exposed to loud noises for too long, such as working in a noisy environment or attending loud concerts without earplugs. This type of hearing loss usually happens gradually over time. Still, it is preventable if you protect your ears from excessive noise by using earplugs while listening to music at high volumes and wearing the proper protection at work or play.

Conductive Hearing Loss

The next most common cause of hearing loss is called "conductive." This means that something has gone wrong with how sound moves through the middle part of your ears and reaches its final destination: inside them. In other words, the sound is not getting through to your inner ear as it should be. This type of hearing loss can be caused by ear infections, a build-up of wax in your ears, or damage to the eardrum.

Age-Related Hearing Loss

Age-related hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss, affecting around one-third of adults in the United States. This type of hearing loss is usually gradual and occurs as we get older. The inner ear's ability to pick up sound diminishes over time, making it harder to hear high-pitched sounds or conversation in noisy environments. Unfortunately, age-related hearing loss cannot be prevented, but there are some things that can be done to reduce its symptoms, like wearing hearing aids.

So, what can you do if you think you might have hearing loss? The best thing to do is go and see an audiologist. They will give you a proper diagnosis and recommend the best course of treatment for you. In many cases, hearing aids can help people to regain their hearing and improve their quality of life.