Understanding the anatomy of the ear is the first step of discovering how the ability to hear can be lost. When sound waves enter the outer ear, they travel through the ear canal. This causes the eardrum as well as the hammer and anvil, which are all located in the middle ear, to vibrate. The vibrations are transmitted to the fluid in the cochlea. Here, the microscopic hairs send nerve signals to the brain for it to understand the sound. Damage to or blockage of any of these parts can result in hearing loss. Some of the top causes of severe hearing loss include:
Long-Term Exposure to Loud Noise
Workplace noise is one of the most common culprits of hearing loss. Today, more than 30 million Americans encounter dangerous levels of noise in the workplace. This is particularly true for those who work with machinery, power tools, motors, and so on. It's necessary to take regular breaks from the noisy activity. More importantly, wear high quality ear plugs to protect the ears effectively.
Changes in Pressure or Injury
Sudden changes in pressure can damage the eardrum, inner ear, or middle ear. This can happen during certain activities like flying or scuba diving. While the eardrum can heal after a few weeks by itself, inner ear damage would require surgery. It's also not a good idea to stick cotton swabs or other objects inside the ear as this can harm the eardrum and cause permanent damage. Accidents that cause severe trauma in the head can also cause damage to the middle ear or auditory nerves. It's a must to take the necessary safety precautions to avoid such scenarios.
Be careful with the medicines that you take. Don't take any medication without consulting your doctor first. It's been known that some medicines can cause hearing loss as side effects. Such medications include some antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. Even the use of regular medicines like aspirin and acetaminophen can also increase hearing loss risk. At least the hearing loss side effect usually goes away after you stop taking the medicine.
Some chronic diseases can also result in hearing loss, even those that are not related to the ear. A few examples are high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. They harm hearing by inhibiting the flow of blood to the inner ear or brain. Other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis have also been associated to some types of hearing loss.
Sudden Explosive Noises
Gunshots, firecrackers and explosive sounds don't need to be heard over a period of time to leave a devastating effect on hearing. Also called acoustic trauma, this ruptures the eardrum and causes severe and permanent hearing damage.
While music is effective in calming the mind and relieving stress, it's not a good idea to bust your eardrums with loud banging music using earphones. This can cause either temporary or permanent damage to your ears. The louder the volume and the longer you keep your headphones on, the more prone you are to hearing loss. Avoid this by lowering the volume of your iPod or music player.