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What Are The Primary Causes Of Hearing Loss?

Many different conditions can cause hearing loss.  The three primary causes, or types of hearing loss are conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss and an appropriate hearing loss treatment often depends on its cause.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems in the middle ear, such as fluid in the middle ear or issues with the middle ear bones.  Many types of conductive hearing loss are not permanent and can be treated by medical intervention. A full hearing evaluation followed with a medical evaluation by an ear physician will help determine the cause of the conductive hearing loss. Once the cause is identified, the physician will recommend medical treatment, such as medication or surgery.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Most causes of sensorineural hearing loss (commonly referred to as "nerve hearing loss" or "nerve deafness" are never known; however, through a complete hearing test and medical evaluation, various causes of hearing loss can be suspected based on test results and the patient's history.. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are genetics, aging, and noise exposure.  Medications, diseases associated with small vessel disease, arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease are all associated with a higher incidence of hearing loss.

Recent studies have also found persons who smoke increase their probability of having hearing loss. Finally, high levels of blood lipids and cholesterol have been associated with an increased incidence of hearing loss, possibly through the promotion of small vessel disease.

Currently, noise-induced hearing loss is the only type of hearing loss that can be fully prevented by the use of ear protection. Noise induced hearing loss may be caused by a single exposure to exceesive noise or from many years of being exposed to loud levels of noise.

In the vast majority of cases, sensorineural hearing loss is not treatable with medication or surgery.  For people with this type of hearing loss, hearing aids are the most effective treatment.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and is caused by the previously mentioned causes.

Unfortunately, even if you live healthy and take all precautions possible, the majority of us will slowly develop hearing loss due to the natural aging process. The inner ear hair cells do not replace themselves and once they are lost, their function is not recovered.

Recent studies have found high doses of antioxidants may be associated with the prevention of noise induced hearing loss. Other studies have shown a diet rich in folates may also help prevent hearing loss by up to 20% (2009, AOO-HNSF); however, further research is needed.

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