What causes hearing loss?

Damage to the inner ear.

Aging and exposure to excessive loud noise may cause wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea that send sound signals to the brain. When these hairs or nerve cells are damaged or missing, electrical signals aren’t transmitted as efficiently, and hearing loss occurs. Higher pitched tones, such as consonant sounds become muffled to you. It may become difficult for you to pick out words against background noise.

Gradual buildup of earwax.

Earwax can block the ear canal and prevent conduction of sound waves. Earwax removal can help restore your hearing.

Ear infection, trauma and abnormal bone growths or tumors.

In the outer, middle ear or inner ear, any of these can cause hearing loss.

Ruptured eardrum.

(Tympanic membrane perforation.) Loud blasts of noise, sudden changes in pressure, poking your eardrum with an object and infection can cause your eardrum to rupture and affect your hearing.

Aging.

Degeneration of inner ear structures occurs over time.

Loud noise.

Exposure to loud sounds can damage the cells of your inner ear. Damage can occur with long-term exposure to loud noises, or from a short blast of noise, such as from a gunshot.

Heredity.

Your genetic makeup may make you more susceptible to ear damage and hearing loss from sound or deterioration from aging.

Occupational noises.

Jobs where loud noise is a regular part of the working environment, such as farming, construction or factory work, can lead to damage inside your ear.

Recreational noises.

Exposure to explosive noises, such as from firearms and jet engines, can cause immediate, permanent hearing loss. Other recreational activities with dangerously high noise levels include snowmobiling, motorcycling, carpentry or listening to loud music.

Some medications.

Drugs such as the antibiotic gentamicin, sildenafil (Viagra) and certain chemotherapy drugs, can damage the inner ear. Temporary effects on your hearing — ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss — can occur if you take very high doses of aspirin, other pain relievers, antimalarial drugs or loop diuretics.

Some illnesses.

Diseases or illnesses that result in high fever, such as meningitis, may damage the cochlea.