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Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

What’s Causing Your Hearing Loss?

Whether you just noticed that you no longer can hear the clock ticking, or you experienced sudden hearing loss, the key to getting treatment is determining what caused it in the first place. We are born with tens of thousands of tiny hair cells—sensory cells sitting on top of a delicate membrane structure in the inner ear. These cells move with the membrane as fluid in the inner ear vibrates in response to sound. Microscopic hair-like projections (known as stereocilia) on top of the hair cells bend with these movements allowing chemicals to enter into the cells creating an electrical signal. This electrical signal is carried by the auditory nerve up the brainstem, to the brain. There it is decoded as a sound that we may recognize and understand.

Some hair cells are designed to detect higher-pitched sounds, and some are designed to detect lower-pitched sounds, much like the layout of a piano keyboard. They are responsible for helping us to decipher the difference between a “D” or a “T” and hear letters like and “H” “S” or “F”. Unfortunately, these hair cells are very delicate and can be easily damaged by loud noise and other trauma. If we are unable to detect the sound correctly, it can lead to difficulty with recognizing how loud a sound is, how far away it is, or where it is coming from. Damage to these cells can also result in tinnitus, a type of noise or ringing in the ears.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is fairly common and might explain why you can hear a pin drop, but not be able to make out what your partner is saying. You’re born with tiny hairs called cilia in your inner ear that move when sound waves are present. Nerves translate the movement of these tiny hairs into information that goes to your brain, where it gets interpreted into distinct sounds and frequencies.

The better the movements are interpreted, the more easily you’re able to hear distinctions between sounds such as “D” and “T” or hear letters like “S”, “H” and “F”. Unfortunately, cilia are extremely delicate and can be harmed by loud noise or other trauma.

Cilia also help your brain determine how loud a sound is, where it’s coming from, and how far away it is.

The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss happens when these tiny hairs are damaged. Often, this type of hearing loss is gradual, which is why many people associate it with aging. It’s thought that animals are able to regrow these hairs and regain their hearing when their cilia get damaged, but humans don’t seem to have this ability naturally.

Common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are:

  • Loud sounds
  • Head injuries or other trauma
  • Diseases like diabetes or autoimmune disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Some medications

Treatments for sensorineural hearing loss

While there are no current medical treatments to heal cilia, you can successfully treat sensorineural hearing loss with hearing technology such as hearing aids.

Why Wait? You don’t have to live with hearing loss.

Why wait? You don’t have to live with hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by damage in the canal, in the eardrum, or caused by trouble with the bones in the middle ear. One of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss is compacted earwax.

The most common causes of conductive hearing loss

You can get conductive hearing loss from:

  • Obstructions in the ear canal
  • Ear infections
  • Abnormalities in the ear structure, including congenital conditions
  • Tumors or other growths
  • Fluid

Treatments for conductive hearing loss

Depending on what’s causing the issue, your hearing specialist might suggest:

  • Removing earwax or other obstructions
  • Surgery
  • Medicine to eliminate inflammation, fluids or infection

Combination hearing loss

You may also have a mix of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. For example, you may have some damage to the cilia in your ear and have an obstruction in the canal. A hearing test can help your hearing specialist determine how to best treat your hearing loss and regain your quality of life.

Why Wait? You don’t have to live with hearing loss.

Why wait? You don’t have to live with hearing loss.

When should you worry about hearing loss?

If you experience hearing loss, particularly in one ear, this may be an infection or inflammation, which is easily treatable if dealt with right away. If you ignore it, it can lead to permanent damage. 

If you have any kind of sudden hearing loss, see a hearing specialist or doctor immediately. Even if your hearing loss is caused by a sudden loud noise, your doctor may be able to limit the damage by controlling inflammation.

Do you or a loved one have hearing loss?

Why Wait? You don’t have to live with hearing loss.

Why wait? You don’t have to live with hearing loss.

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call Us Today