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The Top Causes of Hearing Loss

Man with Hearing Loss

It is estimated that approximately 80 million Americans would benefit from assistive hearing devices. But what are the causes of the current hearing loss epidemic?

It turns out that hearing loss is a complex issue. Researchers believe that there are a number of factors which contribute to the loss of hearing. Here are the top causes.

Wax buildup in the ear canal

The purpose of earwax is to act as a waste disposal mechanism and lubricant. Cells on the inside of the ear secrete wax which then mixes with dust and other particles in the ear, causing the excess to dry out and then flake off harmlessly back into the environment.

But when wax buildup is excessive, it can block the ear canal, preventing sound waves from traveling to the eardrum. If left, wax can become impacted and harden in place, causing swelling, oozing, and discomfort.

The good news is that you can quickly resolve wax buildup. Either use an over-the-counter solution from your pharmacist or go and see your audiologist. Audiologists have special tools that can eliminate blockages painlessly.

Head Trauma

The causes of hearing loss aren’t always within the ear: hearing loss can also result from trauma to the head - specifically to the part of the brain responsible for processing auditory signals.


Excessively loud noise is one of the most prevalent causes of hearing loss, especially in middle-aged people. Modern music players may be partly to blame for the problem. Listening to loud music through headphones or earbuds can damage the delicate, sound-conducting hairs which line the inner ear. Once damaged, these hairs can no longer transmit sounds as effectively.

Other noises in the environment could also be having a detrimental effect on people’s hearing. Just 15 minutes exposure to subway noise, for instance, has been shown to affect hearing in some people detrimentally.


Presbycusis is the scientific name given to age-related hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is difficult to prevent and affects around a third of people aged 65 or over. Researchers believe that this kind of hearing loss may be related to changes in the level of the hormone aldosterone in the body. The good news is that age-related hearing loss can sometimes be arrested or reversed with hearing aids.

Fluid in the inner ear

We depend on our ears not only for a sense of hearing but also of balance. The balancing mechanisms in our ears rely on fluid moving around in small tubules in the inner ear. Sometimes, however, fluid can spill out of these tubes and into the ear cavity itself, causing sounds to become muffled and other complications like vertigo, nausea, and tinnitus.


Excessive sugar in the blood can damage many tissues throughout the body, including the sensitive cells in the inner ear. Cells in the inner ear require a steady supply of nutrients to function. Elevated blood sugar levels, however, can lead to damage to the tiny capillaries which serve them, leading to nutrient deprivation and cell death. People with diabetes are encouraged to monitor their blood sugar levels to avoid permanent damage.