What Causes Hearing Loss?

There are more than many reasons for hearing loss. Each of these reasons arises from a problem in the hearing pathway. This pathway includes the external ear, middle ear, inner ear, auditory nerve and the auditory centers in the brain. Normal hearing requires that all parts of the ear pathway are working correctly.

Causes of Hearing Loss That Occur During or Soon After Birth:

  • Hypoxia (where the baby does get not enough oxygen)
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Severe jaundice
  • Being born early or having a low birth weight
  • Medication toxicities
  • In utero infections or meningitis as a newborn
  • Genetic causes of hearing loss
  • Abnormal development of the brain or ear structures
  • Many cases have an unknown cause

Causes of Hearing Loss That Can Occur Later in a Child’s Life:

  • Infection (such as meningitis, chronic middle ear infections, or measles)
  • Injuries (such as head injury or injuries to the ear structures)
  • Certain drugs (such as the antibiotic gentamicin)
  • Neurological disorders
  • Genetic conditions
  • Tumors, particularly of the auditory nerve
  • Noise induced hearing loss
  • Advancing age
  • Many cases have an unknown cause

Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss:

  • Abnormalities in the structure of the ear canal or middle ear
  • Buildup of ear wax
  • Ear infections (especially repeated infections)
  • Foreign objects in the ear
  • Injury or trauma to the middle ear structures
  • Rupture of the eardrum
  • Tumors within the ear
  • Disruption of the bones of the middle ear

It is usually possible to treat this kind of hearing loss with medication or surgery.

Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss Include:

  • Exposure to certain toxic chemicals or medications while in the womb or after birth
  • Genetic and neurologic conditions
  • Infection before birth, including cytomegalovirus infection, or infection with German measles during the early stages of pregnancy
  • Infections after birth, such as bacterial meningitis and viral infections that affect the inner ear
  • Problems with the structure of the inner ear
  • Toxins that damage the inner ear hair cells
  • Noise induced hearing loss
  • Many cases have an unknown cause

There is no cure for sensorineural hearing loss. People with this type of hearing loss may benefit from hearing aids or a cochlear implant.Mixed hearing loss (a combination of conductive and sensorineural) can be caused by the same things that cause conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Causes of Central Hearing Loss Include:

  • Diseases that affect the protective coating (myelin sheath) around nerve cells
  • Tumors
  • Abnormal brain development or brain injury from stroke, hypoxia, or trauma.
  • Individuals with learning disability or ADHD may sometimes be found to have changes in “auditory processing.”

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American Speech-Language-Hearing Association 
Causes of Hearing Loss in Children

Center for Disease Control

What Causes Hearing Loss? Can It Be Prevented?

My Baby’s Hearing
Causes of Hearing Loss