As we age, it’s natural to wonder what the risk factors are for developing hearing loss. Since hearing damage is often cumulative, it only makes sense that hearing loss becomes more common in older populations.
First, let’s discuss exactly what a risk factor is. The definition of a risk factor is something that increases the chances that you will develop an illness or ailment.
There are several risk factors that can lead to hearing damage over time. Just because you have a risk factor does not guarantee that you will develop hearing loss, but the more of them you have the more likely you are to develop hearing loss. Some risk factors can be decreased or avoided, which can lower the chances that you will develop hearing loss.
Common Risk Factors for Hearing Loss
Otosclerosis, Usher Syndrome, and other genetic irregularities can up your chances of hearing damage. There are also conditions that can alter the shape of the face and the head, which are risk factors as well.
Lower Birth Weight
Low birth weight and premature birth are also risk factors for hearing loss. Complications at birth such as jaundice and asphyxia can also lead to hearing loss later in life.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
The most common risk factor for hearing damage is exposure to loud noises: either shot bursts of very loud noise, or repeated/continual exposure to lower frequencies of loud noise over time. Fortunately, prevention of noise-induced hearing loss is not difficult. The best way to prevent this type of hearing loss is to be prepared: carry earplugs with you so you’re ready when confronted with loud noises. Custom ear plugs can provide even more protection if you are repeatedly exposed to loud noise on a predictable basis.
Hearing damage as we age (presbycusis) progresses gradually, can be hereditary and is most often the cumulative damage from noise exposure over the long term.
Illnesses and Diseases
Meniere’s disease and other diseases can alter the fluid in the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. Diabetes, vascular disease, tumors, and autoimmune disorders can also affect hearing ability. Trauma such as an injury to the head may lead to hearing loss as well.
Ototoxic Chemicals and Medications
NSAID medicine, some antibiotics and chemotherapy can cause temporary or even permanent hearing loss. High doses of aspirin, for example, can cause tinnitus or a temporary loss of hearing in some people. When these medications are no longer used, the symptoms usually cease. Factory or agricultural chemicals can also be ototoxic (lead to hearing damage). Ototoxic chemicals are also present in most cigarettes.
We have discussed the ototoxic properties of some antibiotics and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is another medical intervention that can affect hearing health, especially when the radiation is concentrated in the areas around the ears.
Hearing damage can result from exposure to any of these things, but it doesn’t always happen that way. This is also not a comprehensive list, and there are other factors that can contribute to hearing loss. One thing is certain: if you make an effort to prevent hearing damage, you can make it less likely that you will suffer from hearing damage.
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The information provided in this article is not meant to be medical advice and is for educational purposes only. If you would like to learn more about this and other topics related to audiology, feel free to contact Los Gatos Audiology, with a convenient hearing center located in Los Gatos, CA, by clicking here or by calling 408.703.0772.