Hearing loss may be caused by a wide range of ear conditions. It usually takes a careful history of the hearing loss and related factors along with other ear symptoms coupled with an examination to arrive at a diagnosis. Most patients would require a hearing test which helps to quantify and characterise the hearing loss.
Presbyacusis (age related hearing loss) is probably the commonest cause of hearing loss and is essentially due to degeneration of the specialised hearing nerves and hearing organ that is nicely protected in a tough bone around the ear. This tough bone (temporal bone) is part of the skull. Unfortunately presbyacusis is irreversible but hearing aids help to amplify sounds to be heard. People with presbyacusis complain of being unable to hear properly when there is background noise or complain of other people not being clear enough when speaking. Hearing aid technology has come a long way with digital hearing aids now in routine use in many parts of the world.
Noise induced hearing loss may be occupational from being exposed to excessive noise for prolonged periods without ear protection. It is best prevented as it cannot be reversed with surgery or medication. Noise induced hearing loss may also be caused in social situations e.g. head phones with loud music or frequent long loud parties particularly. These situations are also best prevented as the damage produced is irreversible.
Some people develop a sudden severe hearing loss usually in one ear with no apparent cause. It is important to seek medical attention urgently in this condition.
Other cause of hearing loss include viruses, trauma, some medications, congenital causes and more rarely brain tumours.