Better Hearing Institute


Causes of Hearing Loss

Patricia E. Connelly, PhD, CCC-A, FAAA, New Jersey Medical School, NEWARK, NJ

The causes of hearing loss are varied and their impact on hearing is variable. Sometimes the cause or etiology is readily apparent, such as a wax build-up in the external ear canal or an ear infection. At other times, the causes of hearing loss are presumed or indefinite given current levels of technology and the information they provide, such as in cases of sudden onset or non-syndromic sensorineural hearing loss.

The main causes of hearing loss are as follows:

Causes of Hearing Loss – Conductive:

  • External Ear
    • congenital malformation where pinna and ear canal fail to form
    • blockage in ear canal - foreign body or accumulated cerumen (ear wax)
  • Middle ear
    • perforation in tympanic membrane (ear drum) from trauma or disease
    • otitis media (ear infection)
    • broken ossicular chain due to head trauma or trauma to the ear

Causes of Hearing Loss – Sensorineural:

  • Sensory
    • neonatal risk indicators
    • genetic disorders causing non-syndromic sensorineural hearing loss
    • presbycusis - hearing loss from aging
    • ototoxic drugs such as some antibiotics
    • cancer treatments - chemotherapy and radiation therapy
    • head trauma - fractured temporal bone
    • excessive noise expose
    • diseases of the vascular system such as sickle cell anemia
    • kidney disease
    • Meniere's syndrome
    • congenital infections such as toxoplasmosis, rubella, CMV, herpes, other bacterial infections like syphilis
    • acquired infections such as influenza, meningitis, labyrinthitis, mumps, syphilis
  • Neural
    • acoustic neuroma or other tumor of or near the nerve of hearing and balance