Hearing Loss Symptoms & Causes

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What is hearing loss?

It's easiest to break down hearing loss by type. The two most common types are sensorineural and conductive. Both types of hearing loss can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired.

Sensorineural means a loss of function within the inner ear or with the connection to the brain. Factors that may cause this type of hearing loss include:

  • congenital (present at birth)
  • acquired
    • loud noise exposure
    • trauma
    • infections
    • damage from certain medications that can be harmful to the ears

Conductive Hearing Loss indicates a problem in the outer or middle ear, in which sound waves are not sent to the inner ear correctly. Conductive hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss in children and is usually acquired. Factors that may cause this type of hearing loss include:

  • congenital (present at birth)
    • anomalies of the pinna (the outside of the ear)
    • anomalies of the tympanic membrane (eardrum)
    • anomalies of the external ear canal
    • anomalies of the ossicles (the three tiny bones that deliver the sound waves to the middle ear)
  • acquired
    • excessive wax
    • foreign bodies in the ear canal, like beads or popcorn kernels
    • tumors of the middle ear
    • problems with the eustachian tube
    • ear infections, such as otitis media
    • chronic ear infections with fluid in the middle ear
    • perforation of the eardrum
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