What causes hearing loss?

Around one in six (1:6) Australians suffer from some degree of
hearing impairment.  Hearing loss can be either present at birth
(congenital) or occur later in life (acquired).



Hearing loss attributed to age


We all are subject to a hearing loss throughout the course of life 

The most common causes of hearing loss are ageing and excessive
exposure to loud sounds. The effects of age and noise exposure are
additive so that noise exposure may cause hearing loss in middle age
that would not otherwise occur until old age.  As part of the ageing
process there is a gradual loss of  outer hair cell function in the cochlea
or inner ear. This diminishes the ability to distinguish similar speech
sounds, or sounds heard simultaneously, such as speech in a noisy setting.



Hearing loss that is 

attributed to noise


Noise induced hearing loss is associated with 37 percent
(37%) of all hearing loss. Workplace noise and recreational
noise are the most common source of noise injury and the
most common form of preventable hearing loss.



Hearing loss attributed 

to chemical substances


Risk of hearing impairment in the workplace may also arise through exposure to occupational ototoxins. Ototoxic substances are chemical substances that may damage the hair cells of the cochlear or the auditory pathway, and which can also increase the risk of preventable hearing loss. Ototoxic substances may be present in medicines, including antibiotics and chemotherapy treatments, or inhaled through the fumes of fuels, metals, fertilisers, herbicides or pharmaceuticals.



Hearing loss attributed
to acoustic shock

Further sources of preventable hearing loss, commonly associated
with the workplace, are acoustic shock and acoustic trauma.
Acoustic shock describes the physiological and psychological
symptoms that can be experienced following an unexpected
burst of loud noise through a telephone headset or handset,
which most often occurs in call centres. Acoustic trauma refers
to the physiological and psychological symptoms that can be
experienced following exposure to very loud noise for a short
period of time such as a bomb explosion, localised alarm systems,
or artillery fire. Some incidents of both acoustic shock and acoustic
trauma may result in temporary hearing loss and / or Tinnitus.



Hearing loss facts

Age related hearing loss as a proportion
of all people in each age group


15 to 50 years (5%)       51 to 64 years (29%)

61 to 70 years (58%)     71 years and older (74%)


Sixty per cent (60%) of adults with hearing loss are male, and approximately half 

of these men are of working age. Hearing loss prevalence in the adult
population is expected to be more than double by 2050 ie one in four (1:4) Australians.


The above are just a few causes of hearing loss. It is recommended to speak
to your doctor who will refer you to an Audiologist or Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist
to exclude any underlying medical condition of a more serious nature.