Causes of hearing loss

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"by " Albert Stein

Hearing loss can occur at any time of life. It is most often caused by advancing age or exposure to loud noise but can also result from an infection or an injury. No matter the cause of your hearing loss, you will probably benefit from having hearing aids fitted.

Age is the biggest single cause of hearing loss. As most of us grow older, the daily wear and tear on our hearing systems gradually reduces their effectiveness. When your hearing starts to weaken, it becomes more difficult to hear soft voices and high-frequency sounds, such as the voices of children and women. Sufferers of age-related hearing loss can also find it very hard to follow conversations in the presence of background noise. Because the loss is gradual, you may not realize that you’ve lost some of your ability to hear. Often, family members notice age-related hearing loss before the sufferer becomes aware of it.

Repeated exposure to high levels of noise is a common cause of hearing loss. If we are exposed to loud noise for too long, the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear become damaged and die. As the number of living hair cells falls, you lose the ability to hear. Some people have a higher risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss at work, such as military personnel, musicians, kindergarten teachers, factory workers and construction workers. Listening to loud music at live concerts and through headphones can also damage your hearing. We therefore highly recommend that you wear ear protectors when exposed to excessive noise and turn the volume down when you use headphones.

The most common type of hearing loss, it is mainly caused by damage to the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear, or to the nerves used for hearing. This stops them from properly transmitting sound to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss most often occurs due to natural ageing or frequent exposure to high noise levels, and in most cases the condition is permanent. Hearing aids are often required to improve hearing abilities.

Most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss:

  • Frequent exposure to loud noise

  • Natural ageing

  • Inherited factors

  • Illness and infections


In most cases congenital hearing loss is a hearing loss present at birth, caused by either hereditary or non-hereditary factors. It is estimated that more than 50% of all hearing loss are due to genetic causes. Hearing loss from genetic defects can be present at birth or develop later on in life. In non-genetic causes it may be due to low birth weight or a condition or infection to which the mother was exposed during pregnancy, such as the measles or herpes simplex virus.

Most common causes of congenital hearing loss:

  • Maternal infections such as rubella/measles, cytomegalovirus, or herpes simplex virus

  • Prematurity

  • Low birth weight

  • Birth injuries


Take good care of your hearing by protecting your ears in these situations – or avoiding them completely.

Background noise
Environments where you have to shout to make yourself heard over background noise

Industrial noise
Locations where noise hurts your ears or makes them ring

Live music
Situations where high sound levels make it difficult to hear for several hours afterwards