Portrait of senior woman suffering headache at home

The most common types of hearing loss are noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) and presbycusis.  NIHL is the result of exposure to excessive amounts of noise.  Presbycusis is a gradual hearing loss in both ears that commonly occurs as people age.  However there are more than 100 different causes of hearing loss.  Here are just a few that help to outline the complexity of the auditory system and the multitude of ways in which it can be damaged.  Frankly, it’s miraculous that a problem that affects more than 36 million Americans isn’t more prevalent.


Acquired hearing loss is defined as a loss of hearing that occurs or develops some time during a person’s life but was not present at birth. The first list are problems that can occur in the outer or middle part of the ear.  Fortunately a large number of these problems can often times be remedied medically or surgically.

  • Cholesteatoma – A type of skin cyst located in the middle ear and skull bone (mastoid).
  • Otitis Media – An infection of the middle ear.
  • Osteomas – Small bony growths in the outer ear canal that can grow to completely block the ear canal.
  • Eustachian Tube Dysfunction – The tube that allows your ears to equalize pressure between the middle ear and the back of your throat is not functioning normally.
  • Benign Tumors of the Outer or Middle Ear
  • Otitis Externa – An infection in the outer ear canal
  • Otosclerosis – a hereditary disorder causing progressive deafness due to overgrowth of bone in the inner ear.

Problems that impact primarily the inner ear can be found below.

  • Auditory neuropathy – A rare type of hearing loss that is caused by an abnormality in the transmission of nerve impulses travelling from the inner ear to the brain
  • Head Trauma – a blow to the head can damage the outer, middle or inner ear or all three sections resulting in a temporary or permanent hearing loss depending on the location and the extent of the damage.
  • Acoustic Trauma – A sudden, extremely loud noise (such as an explosion, gunshot, or firecracker), which can damage any of the structures in the ear, causing immediate and permanent hearing loss.
  • Viral Infection – Can lead to sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) in one or both ears
  • Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease – a syndrome of progressive hearing loss and/or dizziness that is caused by antibodies or immune cells which are attacking the inner ear. In most cases, there is reduction of hearing accompanied by tinnitus (ringing, hissing, roaring), which occurs over a few months.
  • Meniere’s Disease – This typically causes dizziness, hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and a sensation of fullness or stuffiness in one or both ears. Meniere’s disease occurs when excess fluid causes swelling in the inner ear.
  • Otosclerosis – a hereditary disorder in which a bony growth forms around a small bone in the middle ear, preventing it from vibrating when stimulated by sound.
  • Acoustic Neuroma – A slow-growing tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain, usually benign.


Hearing loss that occurs at birth is called congenital hearing loss.  Congenital hearing loss can be caused by non-genetic (not inherited) or genetic (inherited) factors. Genetic factors are thought to cause more than 50% of all hearing loss. Hearing loss from genetic defects can be present at birth or develop later on in life.

Non-Genetic Factors

  • Maternal Infections (rubella, cytomegalovirus, or herpes simplex virus)
  • Anoxia (a lack of oxygen)
  • Low Birth Weight
  • Toxins (including drugs and alcohol consumed by the mother during pregnancy)
  • Rh Factor Incompatibility
  • Maternal Diabetes
  • Toxemia

Genetic Syndromes (where hearing loss is one factor of one of a group of signs or symptoms that together indicate a specific disease)

  • Waardenburg Syndrome
  • Branchio-Oto-Renal (BOR)
  • Neurofibromatosis Type II (NFII)
  • Stickler Syndrome
  • Treacher-Collins Syndrome
  • Usher Syndrome
  • Alport Syndrome
  • Jervell and Lange-Nielson Syndrome
  • Pendred Syndrome
  • CHARGE Syndrome
  • X-Linked Congenital Stapes Fixation with Perilymph Gusher

For more information on the syndromes listed above, please visit Boys Town National Research Hospital.

Most hearing loss that occurs beyond the outer and middle ear tends to be permanent.  Fortunately most individuals suffering with hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids.  Call our office.  We can help get you on the path to better hearing today.