Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a common problem especially in the elderly. There is a strong association between hearing loss and age however it can also be caused by exposure to loud noises, medications, infection, trauma, and even heredity. Hearing is a complex sense that depends on both the ear’s ability to detect sounds and the brain’s ability to interpret those sounds. In a healthy ear, sound travels through the ear canal where it is then processed by the middle and inner ear and sent to the brain. Hearing loss occurs when there is a disruption of this process caused by external factors or internal problems within the outer, middle, or inner ear. Some common causes of hearing loss include:
- Excessive Ear Wax
- Ear Drum Perforation
- Recurrent Ear Infections
- Fluid in the Ear
- Nerve Loss
Causes of Eardrum Perforations
Ear perforations can be caused by a middle ear infection, foreign objects inserted into the ear, loud noises, and severe head trauma. Dramatic changes in air pressure such as on an airplane or when scuba diving can also cause your eardrum to rupture.
Most perforated eardrums will heal by themselves in just a few weeks. Sometimes an infection may occur and antibiotics may be necessary. If the perforation does not heal on its own, your Broward ENT specialist may need to apply a patch or surgically repair the tear.
Hearing Bone Disorders
Otosclerosis is an abnormal bone growth around the stapes bone, one of the tiny bones in the middle ear. The growth causes the stapes bone to become fixed instead of remaining flexible. In order for your ear to work properly and for you to hear well, the stales bone must able to move freely. Symptoms of otosclerosis include hearing loss, dizziness, balance issues and tinnitus.
It is not fully understood what exactly causes otosclerosis. Research shows that there is a familial link and in some cases otosclerosis is hereditary. It is usually passed down from parent to child. The risk is 25% if you have one parent with otosclerosis and increases to 50% if you have two parents with otosclerosis.
Some research suggests a possible relationship between otosclerosis and the hormonal changes that occur with pregnancy, and even viral infections such as the measles.
In many cases, surgery is the best option to treat otosclerosis. A procedure called a stapedectomy would be performed by one of our Broward ENT physicians.
If the hearing loss is minor or the hearing loss persists after surgery, a properly fitted hearing aid would be of significant benefit.
The ears are designed to be self-cleaning. This is why physicians highly discourage the use of cotton swabs or ear candling to remove wax unless it is causing a problem. Earwax or cerumen is a necessary and important part of the ear’s own cleaning system. Earwax is meant to stop dust, dirt, bacteria and other material from entering the ear canal and to carry them out again. The movements of the jaw help to carry the wax and trapped debris out of the ear. When the wax reaches the outer ear it will dry and fall out usually without being noticed.
Earwax buildup and earwax impaction can be a serious problem. Earwax build up can happen to anyone. It usually occurs in people who use hearing aids, use ear plugs and put cotton swabs in their ears. It is also prevalent in people with developmental disabilities and also in the elderly.
Symptoms of earwax impaction:
- Fullness, pain or pressure in the ear
- Tinnitus or ringing in the ear
- Difficulty hearing
- Itchiness in the ear
- Discharge or odor coming from the ear
Before seeking any over the counter treatments see one of our Broward hearing specialists or a Broward ENT specialist. An ear perforation and other serious ear problems should be ruled out before irrigating the ear.
The earwax can be removed in our office by one of our hearing specialists using special instruments.
There are also several at home solutions that can be used including hydrogen peroxide, saline solution, baby oil etc. See one of our Broward hearing specialists to find out what the best course of treatment and prevention is for you.
Middle ear infections also known as Otitis Media are common in children.
Common causes of middle ear infections include exposure to viruses and bacteria in daycare, second hand smoke, and even taking a bottle to bed. A cold or upper respiratory infection can cause the middle ear to become infected, fill with fluid or pus and sometimes affect the child’s hearing. Ear tubes may be recommended for your child if multiple infections occur in a short period of time that do not heal easily or if there are noticeable changes in hearing or speech.
Ear tube surgery is a common procedure used to treat children that have chronic ear infections and ear fluid build-up as an infant or toddler. One of our Broward ENT physicians may suggest surgery to drain the fluid from the middle ear and prevent additional infections.
Most kids have had infections in both ears, therefore surgery is often done in both; this is called a bilateral myringotomy, or BMT. A tiny tube, called a pressure equalization (PE) or tympanostomy tube, is inserted into the eardrum. The ear tubes are designed to alleviate fluid build-up by allowing air to pass into the child’s middle ear to ventilate and eliminate the pressure inside that space. This helps to prevent future infections and the build-up of fluid, and will help normalize hearing.
Contrary to what you may have heard, children with ear tubes are able to continue normal activities including swimming and bathing without wearing ear plugs. Most tubes will remain in the child for 6-18 months and are designed to fall out on their own. However, some tubes need to be surgically removed.