Hearing loss happens for many reasons. Some people lose their hearing slowly as they age. This condition is called presbycusis. Doctors do not know why presbycusis happens, but it seems to run in families.
Another cause is the ear infection otitis media, which can lead to long-term hearing loss if it is not treated.
Hearing loss can also result from taking certain medications. “Ototoxic” medications damage the inner ear, sometimes permanently. Some antibiotics are ototoxic. Even aspirin at some dosages can cause problems, but they are temporary. Check with your doctor if you notice a problem while taking a medication.
Heredity can cause hearing loss, but not all inherited forms of hearing loss take place at birth. Some forms can show up later in life. In otosclerosis, which is thought to be a hereditary disease, an abnormal growth of bone prevents structures within the ear from working properly.
One of the most common causes of hearing loss is loud noise. Loud noise can permanently damage the inner ear. Loud noise also contributes to tinnitus, which is a ringing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing sound in the ears.
Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable. You can protect your hearing by avoiding noises at or above 85 decibels in loudness, which can damage your inner ear.
Lower the volume on personal stereo systems and televisions. When you are involved in a loud activity, wear earplugs or other hearing protective devices.
There are other ways to prevent hearing loss.
If earwax blockage is a problem for you, ask your doctor about treatments you can use at home such as mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial ear drops to soften earwax.
If you suspect that you may have a hole in your eardrum, you should consult a doctor before using such products. A hole in the eardrum can result in hearing loss and fluid discharge.
The ear infection otitis media is most common in children, but adults can get it, too. You can help prevent upper respiratory infections — and a resulting ear infection — by washing your hands frequently.
Ask your doctor about how to help prevent flu-related ear infections. If you still get an ear infection, see a doctor immediately before it becomes more serious.
If you take medications, ask your doctor if your medication is ototoxic, or potentially damaging to the ear. Ask if other medications can be used instead. If not, ask if the dosage can be safely reduced. Sometimes it cannot. However, your doctor should help you get the medication you need while trying to reduce unwanted side effects.