Older man pointing to ear

Because the ear’s primary functions are hearing and helping maintain balance, ear problems such as hearing loss can impact the ability to communicate and function effectively. It is a common problem for older adults, but hearing loss can affect people of all ages.

If your hearing becomes impaired or you are concerned about developing hearing loss, it helps to know some of the causes. Below are the common causes of hearing loss.


Age is the most common cause of hearing loss, and most adults over 65 experience some form of impaired hearing. Also known as presbycusis, hearing loss caused by age is a gradual process. Many people don’t realize their hearing has declined because it happens slowly over time. 

Age-related hearing loss is often a result of changes within our inner ear, middle ear, or the nerves that carry information from our ears to our brains. And when we age, we lose hair cells that work as sensory receptors in the ear. Hearing loss may be genetic; when you reach the age that your parents or grandparents begin to lose their hearing, you may as well.

Chronic exposure to loud noise

The second common cause of hearing loss is noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL. The condition can:

  • Be temporary or permanent
  • Affect one or both ears
  • Affect anyone at any age

Generally, this type of hearing loss is painless and gradually progresses. However, a sudden and loud sound can also cause hearing loss. For example, the following sounds can damage the inner ear:

  • Loud music (live or earphones)
  • Firearms
  • Explosives
  • Any loud noise for an extended amount of time.

Simply put: the louder the sound, the shorter it takes for NIHL to occur. However, NIHL is preventable. If you’ll be in a noisy environment, bring ear protection such as earplugs or earmuffs and move away from the sound source when possible. Additionally, take extra care to protect the little ones, as children’s ears are susceptible to loud sounds.

Diseases and medications

Several diseases cause hearing loss, including:

  • Otosclerosis stops full sound from reaching the inner ear
  • Ménière's Disease causes permanent hearing loss
  • Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease can quickly cause hearing loss

Additionally, some drugs are ototoxic, meaning they have a toxic effect on the ear or its nerves. Examples of these medications include:

  • Aspirin
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Some medications used in chemotherapy

Excessive ear wax

While earwax naturally forms in and exits out of your ear, it can form a plug in the ear canal and cause hearing problems until removed. Also known as cerumen, using cotton buds or your fingers to attempt to remove it can cause further blockage and undesirable symptoms, such as increased difficulty in hearing or pain.

Head injury

Sudden and extreme force to the head can cause bruising, swelling, or localized bleeding, which can significantly damage parts critical for the auditory system. This includes:

  • Rupture of the eardrum
  • Damage to the ossicles or hair cells
  • Restriction of blood flow
  • Obstruction of auditory pathways

Some examples of physical head injuries that can cause hearing loss include:

This loss may be reversible; however, extensive damage can cause permanent hearing loss.

Treat your hearing loss at South Florida ENT Associates

Our physicians at South Florida ENT Associates are highly trained experts in the ENT field, and our practice homes some of the best physicians in the state. We have 30+ locations across the South Florida region, making your hearing loss treatment accessible wherever you are in the area. If you believe you are experiencing hearing loss, such as age-related hearing loss, request an appointment with us today.

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