Many things can cause hearing loss, most of which we still cannot do much about – in spite of the advancements in medical technology. However, there are advantages to KNOWING more about the potential causes of hearing loss, especially as they can help with early detection/diagnosis and possibly minimizing the nature of hearing loss eventually recorded. As with most other bodily malfunctions or disorders, early investigation or detection can be useful in tackling a hearing loss problem. This is why hearing specialists often recommend periodic hearing assessments especially for people who are exposed to environments that predispose them to develop this problem.
This article describes some potential causes of hearing loss.
1. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: This can happen due to exposure to a Noisy Work environment – for instance, not using hearing protection in a packaging/bottling hall or manufacturing plant with loud machines operating. Sound levels above 85 decibels qualify to be called “Noise” and have the potential to cause hearing loss with prolonged exposure.
A study found that workers in a plant who were exposed to excessive noise (above 85 decibels) and did not routinely use hearing protection tended to develop permanent hearing loss. The same logic applies to prolonged exposure to non-workplace situations (i.e. Noisy Play Environments) in which high noise levels occur e.g. party venues with loud music etc. In the USA, an initiative called “Dangerous Decibels” aimed at sensitizing young people to the potential damage of loud music, etc is one that re-enforces the point being made.
2. Tobacco Induced Hearing Loss (TIHL): Not many people are aware of this type of hearing loss. Proposals have been made that cigarette manufacture is outlawed to facilitate the prevention of TIHL. Research studies have shown that people who smoke are more predisposed to developing hearing loss. And the longer they continue smoking, the worse the condition becomes.
A relatively recent study reported in the Journal of the Association for Research into Otolaryngology that “Smoking Reduces Blood Flow, Threatens Hearing” (17 June 2008).
3. Indiscriminate Self-medication: In many developing countries, especially Nigeria, because people are wary of paying high fees to see the physician for proper diagnosis, they tend to self-medicate in the hope that they might save money, and by some stroke of luck, get cured.
Over time, they get used to this habit, which leads to the syndrome of a “pill for every ill” as it was described by Dr. Peter Alberti in an article titled “Action call to halt antibiotic-induced hearing loss”. In adults, hearing loss resulting from doing this is due to some drugs which are “ototoxicý – in other words, they are damaging to the ear. Drugs are known to be ototoxic include antibiotics like streptomycin and neomycin, aspirin, etc. Sound Choice Hearing Health Services
According to experts in the field, the problem of hearing loss caused by antibiotics misuse is getting more widespread.
4. Diseases/Infections: Do you have the habit of putting objects into your ear when you feel itching or just to clean it out? Well, you might want to stop doing that especially as you could pick up ear infections, develop diseases or even damage the ear.
Having said that, other diseases do occur without one doing the foregoing.
For instance in children, Otitis media can be quite common. It is caused by fluid accumulating behind the eardrum, failing to drain from the “Eustachian tube” (a small passage which connects the ear to the nose). This provides an opportunity for bacteria from the nasal passages to enter this fluid and cause an ear infection. The foregoing explains why Otitis Media often occurs following (or in the course) of an attack of cold since during this period, the child’s nose is typically congested.
The results are that the child hears speech as muffled or inaudible when this infection sets in because the fluid prevents proper transmission of the speech sounds to the inner ear (making this a conductive type of hearing loss). This type of hearing loss is however often temporary but if it happens repeatedly, damage to the eardrum and other inner ear parts can lead to permanent (sensorineural) hearing loss.
5. Ear Canal Blockage: Blockage of the ear canal can lead to a loss. The ear canal can be blocked by earwax, or what is also known as cerumen. This kind of blockage is common and often easily cured by having a doctor remove the wax (using special equipment or even by simply flushing with water).
You can also do it yourself if you have access to some of the available over-the-counter wax control mixtures meant for use at home. Reports, however, suggest that these do-it-yourself preparations may lead to external ear infections.
Infections that are accompanied by swelling that blocks the canal, resulting in hearing loss can also occur. The ear would typically detect sounds clearly or without distortion, but at a lower volume. Other blockages can be caused by damage/injury to the inner ear (e.g. due to poking sharp objects when itching is felt); or even tumors/growth in the ear.
ONE EXTRA CAUSE OF HEARING LOSS: Age
Now this one is interesting, and that’s why I have added it to make the number of causes I have discussed six (6) instead of the five (5) promised in the title.
Many people simply assume aging logically leads to some loss of overtime. But research studies across cultures/societies suggest otherwise.
According to Dr. John A. McDougall in his book, “The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart”, people in the third world, demonstrate sounder hearing at 70 years than the average American does at 20 years. He explains that these third world residents grow old with virtually all of their senses intact, while their counterparts in developed societies often need to wear hearing aids and recommended glasses with the advancement in age.
The key appears to be the relatively high-fat diet of the latter group. Comparisons of people in Wisconsin, USA, with African tribesmen called Maabans, revealed that none of the Africans was diagnosed with any hearing loss like those suffered by many residents of the dairy producing Wisconsin. Children in Finland (where high-fat diets are common) were found to have hearing loss as early as the age of ten (10) years, while Yugoslavians (who eat much lower cholesterol levels) show no such losses. In summing up, Dr. McDougall points out that it is the same way that fat blocks arteries supplying the brain and heart, that vessels which serve the inner ear also get progressively blocked, making the ear become less sensitive to sound.
What can you take away from the above? Well, the simple message is that you NEED to eat healthy foods – so that you can stand a better chance of preventing hearing loss right into your grey years!