Hearing loss is the partial or total inability to hear sounds. This may affect one or both ears. Loss of hearing is usually a gradual process that gets progressively worse as time goes on. If you experience some loss, you may be able to hear some sounds or nothing at all. Loss of hearing may also be described as decreased hearing, sensorineural loss, deafness, nerve deafness or conductive loss.
You may notice that you are turning the television or radio up louder. Early symptoms are difficult to catch. Audio tests are the only way to catch early loss of hearing. Others may notice you speaking more loudly or making irrelevant comments or asking people to repeat what they said.
There are many causes of hearing loss. It could be due to genetics, or to a congenital problem like rubella, atresia, cytomegalovirus, fetal iodine deficiency or fetal methyl mercury. It could be due to an infectious disease like scarlet fever, mumps, measles, an ear infection or meningitis. It could be due to a traumatic injury like a perforated eardrum, a fracture of the skull, acoustic trauma like loud music or fireworks, or changes in pressure.
Loss can also be caused by a toxic buildup from aspirin, antibiotics or other substances that usually results in excess earwax. It could also be age-related hearing loss, or related to occupational hazards. For any loss of hearing coupled with pain, it could be due to damage to the eardrum, a cyst in the middle ear, mastoiditis, hypertension, hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, blood disorders or problems in the mouth or with the teeth.
Food allergies can also sometimes trigger hearing loss due to plugging of the ears. Stay away from foods you know you have reactions to, and dairy, which can cause excess earwax to form. Eating a lot of saturated fat, such as is found in red meat, can also contribute to the loss because saturated fat reduces blood circulation.
If you experience sudden loss of hearing, ringing or pain in your ears, see your doctor as soon as possible. If any loss of hearing goes untreated, you may experience depression, difficulty communicating with others, and isolation.