There are various reasons why someone can experience a loss in their hearing. We look at some of the main causes of hearing loss here:
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when something prevents sounds from being carried into the inner ear. This can be because the ear is blocked by a build up of wax or fluid, or because of an ear infection. Other causes include a perforated ear drum (where the ear drum is torn) or otosclerosis, a disease where the small bones in the ear grow abnormally and make it harder to carry sound. Conductive hearing loss can often be temporary and can be treated by removing what is preventing the sound being carried, for example by irrigating any wax, or by allowing the ear drum to heal.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the nerves which carry information about the sounds we hear. This can be in the cochlea (a coiled tube containing nerves in the inner ear) or in the auditory nerve. Most genetic (inherited) hearing problems are sensorineural, as are hearing problems related to aging and loud noises.
Age-related hearing loss
Our hearing ability starts to decline from the age of about 30 to 40. By 80 years old, most of us will have a hearing impairment of some kind. Losing the sharpness of your hearing is a normal part of aging, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get help to adapt to your body's changes.
Age-related hearing loss occurs when the tiny hair cells inside the cochlea gradually become less sensitive to sound. It's usually higher frequencies that become harder to detect, which might mean that the first thing you notice is that hearing women's and children's voices becomes more difficult.