Presbycusis is a type of hearing loss that gradually occurs as you grow older. Approximately 25% of Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 will experience some degree of hearing loss. As you get older than 65, this percentage nearly doubles.
Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of things, including damage to the inner ear, buildup of earwax, infections, and ruptured eardrums. Here are some of the most common causes of hearing loss.
There are hairs and nerve cells in your inner ear that greatly contribute to your ability to hear things clearly. As your body ages, these delicate inner ear structures will gradually begin to degenerate over time.
Being exposed to loud sounds, especially over a long period of time, will damage the cells in your inner ear and lead to hearing loss. Though damage most commonly occurs after long-term exposure to a loud nose, it is also possible for a short blast of noise to cause permanent hearing loss, such as a gunshot. There are different kinds of noises that can cause damage, including:
- Occupational noises: If you have a job that involves loud noises as a regular component of the everyday working environment, this could lead to gradual damage inside your ear and eventual hearing loss. Some examples include farming, construction, or factory work. There are maximum legal job-noise exposure levels that are enforced by the law that are determined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- Recreational noises: Being exposed to any sort of explosive noise can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss. Some recreational activities that have dangerously high levels of noise include firearms, jet engines, snowmobiling, motorcycling, and listening to loud music. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have information about the decibel levels of common noises that indicate when you are entering the risk range and the injury range.
Sometimes, genetics can play a part in the development of hearing loss. If you have parents who have experienced hearing loss either from aging or from loud noises, you could be more susceptible to experiencing inner ear damage yourself.
There are certain medications that can damage the inner ear. Sometimes these side effects are temporary, while other times they can be more permanent. For example, taking high doses of aspirin, pain relievers, antimalarial drugs, or loop diuretics can cause temporary effects on your hearing such as ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or muted hearing. However, other medications such as the antibiotic gentamicin and certain chemotherapy medications can cause permanent damage to the inner ear that can lead to hearing loss.
Any disease or condition that results in high fever for a prolonged period of time can cause damage to the cochlea, which will lead to hearing loss. One example of an illness that can lead to this sort of damage is meningitis, which causes an inflammation of the spinal cord and brain.