(Sudden) hearing loss and its causes
About half a billion people worldwide are affected by hearing loss. Newborns as well as children and adults are at risk of acquiring or being born with hearing loss. Hearing loss can occur in one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) ears. The term encompasses a number of different types of hearing loss. You can learn more about the different types of hearing loss/hearing loss here
Hearing loss causes
Hearing loss is attributed to several causes. On the one hand, it is attributed to the natural aging process, in which noise exposure in particular plays a crucial role. On the other hand, especially in children, middle ear infections are a frequent trigger for temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Hearing loss due to middle ear infection
Middle ear infection causes the mucous membranes in the ear to swell. As a result, ventilation of the inner ear is no longer guaranteed. This creates negative pressure, which manifests itself in a sensation of pressure. Temporary hearing loss may occur, which usually disappears after the inflammation has healed.
Hearing loss due to blocked ears
Constipation of the ears can also cause temporary hearing loss. In children, the ears become blocked in part due to the ingress of foreign bodies. In this case, removal carries the risk of accidental damage to the ear, which can also cause long-term problems. Adult patients more often present with ear canal blockage due to earwax. This is also a temporary hearing impairment that is resolved by cleaning.
Hearing loss due to stress
Hearing loss can result from excessive stress. The stress hormone adrenaline is thought to be responsible, causing blood vessels to tighten. However, the exact process is not entirely known. Anyone experiencing hearing loss from excessive stress should be aware of the risk of hearing loss. A visit to a specialist is advisable if such a condition is suspected.
Hearing loss due to stroke
Strokes affecting the temporal lobe can affect the auditory pathways and consequently limit hearing ability. A link between hearing loss and strokes has also been shown the other way around: patients who suffered sudden hearing loss have subsequently shown a higher risk of stroke in studies.
Hearing Loss from Corona
Generally, viral infections potentially influence the occurrence of hearing loss. As an active covid-19 symptom, hearing loss has been poorly recognized. In the context of late effects, hearing loss is mentioned more often, but the relationship has not been definitively established due to a lack of research. If you experience hearing loss in the context of corona infection, you should seek treatment as soon as possible.
Hearing loss in old age
From about the age of 50, it is part of the natural aging process that hearing performance declines. The causes of age-related hearing loss, also known as presbyacusis, are not fully understood. It is believed that the closure of hair cells in the inner ear is influenced by natural aging, decades of exposure to noise, and hereditary factors.
Sudden hearing loss
Sudden hearing loss is when the loss occurs suddenly or within a few days in one or both ears. This is a medical emergency and you should seek medical attention immediately. Some people hear a "popping" sound before the hearing loss begins. In addition, a combination with tinnitus or dizziness often occurs. Causes include:
- excessive earwax
- viral infections
- head trauma
- immune diseases
- idiopathic diseases (multiple sclerosis, Morbus Meniere)
- Vascular diseases that restrict blood supply to the ear.
The diagnosis of "hearing loss" occurs when there is a reduction in hearing of more than 30 decibels in three contiguous frequencies. Recovery from sudden hearing loss is usually possible within two weeks, but the type and duration of treatment depends on the specific cause.
Hearing loss treatment
Depending on the cause of their hearing loss, different treatment measures are promising. Many triggers can already be eliminated by minor surgery or drug treatment. Hearing impairments caused by infections are also partially eliminated after the disease has healed. In the case of permanent hearing impairment, treatment with hearing aids is the best option. The rule here is: the sooner you see a doctor, the better. Those who wait too long risk a deterioration of their hearing or further undesirable side effects, such as the tendency to social isolation.