Causes of Hearing Loss | Little Rock Audiologist

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 25 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss. Hearing loss, meaning unable to partially or completely hear sound in one or both ears, also refers to decreased hearing, deafness, loss of hearing, or conductive hearing loss. Our Audiologists take a look at the three common types of hearing loss: conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), and mixed hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sounds aren’t able to travel from the outer ear to the eardrum and the bones of the middle ear. When this type of hearing loss occurs, you may find it difficult to hear soft or muffled sounds. Conductive hearing loss isn’t always permanent. Medical interventions can treat it. Treatment may include antibiotics or surgical interventions, such as a cochlear implant. A cochlear implant is a small electrical machine placed under your skin behind the ear. It translates sound vibrations into electrical signals that your brain can then interpret as meaningful sound.

Conductive hearing loss can be the result of:

  • ear infections

  • allergies

  • swimmer’s ear

  • a buildup of wax in the ear

A foreign object that has become stuck in the ear, benign tumors or scarring of the ear canal due to recurrent infections are all potential causes of hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)

SNHL happens when there’s damage to inner ear structures or in the nerve pathways to the brain. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent. SNHL makes even distinct, normal, or loud sounds seem muffled or unclear.

SNHL can result from:

  • birth defects that alter the structure of the ear

  • aging

  • working around loud noises

  • trauma to the head or skull

  • Meniere’s disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance.

  • acoustic neuroma, which is a noncancerous tumor that grows on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain called the “vestibular cochlear nerve”


Infections such as the following can also damage the nerves of the ear and lead to SNHL:

  • measles

  • meningitis

  • mumps

  • scarlet fever

Ototoxic Medications

Some medications, called ototoxic medications, may also cause SNHL. According to the ASHA, there are over 200 over-the-counter and prescription medications that may cause hearing loss. If you’re taking medications for cancer, heart disease, or a serious infection, talk to your doctor about the hearing risks involved with each.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss may also occur. This happens when both conductive hearing loss and SNHL occur at the same time.

If you are suffering from hearing loss, or have questions about the possibility of hearing loss, schedule an appointment with our Audiologists at Arkansas Otolaryngology Center. They might recommend a hearing test and will help evaluate what hearing needs you have.