Understanding hearing loss: Causes, types, and symptoms

The cause of hearing loss depends on the nature and type of the hearing loss. Some of the most common causes of hearing loss include:

Understanding hearing loss: Causes, types, and symptoms

Image Credit: Amplivox UK

  1. Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis): This type of hearing loss occurs gradually and is caused by the natural aging process. It is commonly linked to the decline of sensory hair cells within the inner ear.
  2. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL): Sustained or repetitive exposure to loud noises can damage the delicate inner ear structures. Background noise, particularly in the workplace, is frequently associated with NIHL. However, there are more reports of NIHL occurring during leisure activities, such as operating machinery, loud music, shooting guns, or doing construction work.
  3. Genetic factors: Hearing loss also occurs due to inherited conditions or genetic abnormalities, which can present at birth or develop later in life.
  4. Ototoxic medications: Certain therapeutics, such as chemotherapy drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and antibiotics (for example, aminoglycosides), can harm the inner ear structures and cause hearing loss.
  5. Traumatic injuries: A significant injury to the head or exposure to sudden, loud noises (acoustic trauma) can lead to delayed or immediate hearing loss.
  6. Infections and diseases: Diseases (such as otosclerosis, autoimmune inner ear disease, Ménière's disease) and infections (like measles, mumps, and meningitis) can cause different levels of hearing loss.
  7. Earwax build-up: Temporary hearing loss can also occur due to the accumulation of excessive earwax in the ear canal. 

These are some common causes of hearing loss, but there may be other factors or conditions that also contribute to it.

What are the three types of hearing loss?

In the field of audiology, hearing loss can be categorized into three main types. However, there can also be other variations and classifications of hearing loss.

  • Conductive hearing loss

This happens when there is an issue in the middle or outer ear, making it hard for sound to travel properly to the inner ear. Common causes of conductive hearing loss include perforated eardrum, abnormalities in the ear structure, middle ear infections, earwax blockage, or fluid build-up. This type of hearing loss is often temporary and can be treated via medication or surgery.

  • Sensorineural hearing loss

The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). It is caused by damage to the auditory nerve pathways or inner ear. It typically occurs when the auditory nerve is impaired or the hair cells in the cochlea (a spiral-shaped structure in the inner ear) are impaired.

It can result from genetic factors, infections, certain medications, head traumas, prolonged exposure to loud noises, or aging (presbycusis). This type of hearing loss is often permanent but can be improved using cochlear implants or hearing aids.

  • Mixed hearing loss

Mixed hearing loss refers to the combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing problems, meaning the problem occurs in both the outer and inner ear.

For example, a person who already has trouble hearing due to sensorineural issues may also develop a conductive problem because of an additional injury, infection, or condition. Its treatment is cause-specific, and it may include hearing devices, medical interventions, and surgeries.

What are the common signs of hearing loss?

Loss of hearing can manifest in various ways and may vary in severity. Here are some common signs and symptoms of hearing loss:

  1. Difficulty understanding speech: People with diminished hearing often struggle to follow conversations, particularly in loud environments. They might ask people to repeat themselves or frequently misunderstand what others are saying. They may also confuse similar sounds, such as "th" and "s" or "p" and "t."
  2. Turning up the volume: If someone continuously turns up the volume of the radio or TV to an unbearable extent, it might mean they have trouble hearing.
  3. Withdrawal from social situations: People with reduced hearing avoid group talks and activities and isolate themselves socially because they are unable to understand others. 
  4. Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds: People with reduced hearing often find it difficult to hear high-frequency sounds such as phone notifications, birds chirping, and doorbells.
  5. Tinnitus: Some people may also experience tinnitus (a ringing in the ears). This may be continuous or intermittent.
  6. Ear pain or discomfort:  Sometimes, when there is hearing loss, ear pain, pressure, or fullness may manifest.

The presence of one or more of these signs does not necessarily indicate hearing loss, as there can be other factors.

How hearing loss can affect daily life

Various aspects of our daily lives can also be significantly affected due to loss of hearing. It can affect individuals in the following ways:

  1. Communication difficulties: Difficulty in hearing makes it hard to grasp the sounds and speech of other individuals, particularly in loud places. Those with hearing loss often struggle to follow conversations, and it becomes more challenging to talk to each other. This ultimately leads to misunderstandings and social isolation.
  2. Emotional impact: Emotional consequences (such as depression, anxiety, frustration, and stress) also arise because of hearing loss. The struggle to engage and communicate with others can reduce the quality of life, cause low self-esteem, and increase loneliness.
  3. Professional challenges: At work, hearing loss can impair effective communication, influencing a person’s job productivity, performance, and career progression. It may become challenging to participate in conferences, phone conversations, and meetings, resulting in misunderstandings and professional limitations.
  4. Safety concerns: Those with reduced hearing loss find it difficult to hear alarms, approaching vehicles, and warning signals, compromising their safety. They may also be less aware of their environment, increasing the risk of accidents occurring.
  5. Social isolation: People with reduced hearing may avoid group talks and activities and isolate themselves socially as they are unable to understand others. This isolation may impact relationships with friends and families and also increase feelings of loneliness.
  6. Cognitive strain: Straining to hear and understand others may be mentally exhausting for those suffering from hearing loss. This extra cognitive load can impair concentration, memory, and cognitive capabilities.
  7. Reduced participation: The challenges caused by hearing loss may cause individuals to engage less in activities they used to enjoy, such as group events, fun activities, and certain hobbies. This can result in less involvement and reduced quality of life.

The effect of hearing loss can differ based on how serious the condition is. Using hearing aids and other devices, in addition to having a good support system, is crucial.

The daily lives of people who suffer from hearing loss can be improved by utilizing hearing aids, employing communication strategies, and seeking professional help.

Industry-leading audiometers

To determine whether you have hearing loss or not, you must have regular hearing examinations. This can be accomplished by visiting a local doctor or audiologist for a hearing examination, utilizing a screening audiometer in the community, or having a hearing evaluation checkup. 

Amplivox provides a broad range of portable, computer-operated screening audiometers that are accurate and dependable, offering a customized and flexible static or mobile solution.

In addition to providing customized data management and hearing screening services, it guarantees precise and effective testing.

It is essential to ensure a comprehensive diagnosis of the cause and type of hearing loss before being able to select the right treatment.

Amplivox created a series of contemporary, user-friendly diagnostic audiometers. These devices can conduct a variety of tests, including speech, AC, BC, and specialized tests like ABLB, Stenger, SISI, Tone decay, HLS, and MHA, to screen for various forms of hearing loss. 

References and further reading

1. Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). Types and causes of hearing loss and deafness. Accessible at: https://rnid.org.uk/information-and-support/hearing-loss/types-of-hearing-loss-and-deafness/

2. NHS (6th Dec 2021) Hearing Loss. Accessible at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hearing-loss/

3. World Health Organization (WHO). Deafness and Hearing Loss. Accessible at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/hearing-loss

About Amplivox

Amplivox creates a healthier future by providing accessible and accurate medical solutions for everyone.

As a manufacturer with more than 85 years of experience, we are proud to be a trusted partner to hearing and occupational health professionals all over the world by delivering a high level of knowledge-led solutions, service and support. We are here to be your preferred audiological and occupational health equipment provider.


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Last updated: Mar 19, 2024 at 10:40 AM

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