About 3 in every 1,000 babies are born with hearing loss, but most instances come about later in life. Hearing loss can develop at any age. Several of the most common causes of hearing loss are explained below.

  • Age-Related Hearing Loss (ARHL): Loss of hearing as a result of aging. This condition is known as presbycusis (prez-buh-KYOO-sis). Many people with ARHL, or any other type of hearing loss, also have a ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears, called tinnitus (tin-NY-tus).

  • Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL): Occurs as a result of exposure to too much loud noise. Many construction workers, farmers, musicians, airport workers, and military personnel have NIHL. Temporary tinnitus after loud noise is a warning sign that repeated exposure may cause permanent NIHL. NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is preventable.

  • Genetic factors: More than half of congenital hearing loss cases, or hearing loss present at birth, are due to genetic factors and can be caused by recessive or dominant genes. Examples of heredity hearing loss include:

    • Connexin 26 disorder is the most common cause of congenital nonsyndromic hearing loss. This complex genetic condition leads to faulty copies of the GJB2 gene.

    • Otosclerosis is an inherited disease of the middle ear that causes hearing loss due to the ear’s inability to amplify sound.

    • Usher syndrome, combined deafness and blindness, can appear as one of three different types.

    • Waardenburg syndrome is an inherited disorder often characterized by varying degrees of hearing loss and changes in skin and hair pigmentation.

  • Head trauma can directly injure any part of the ear, and can cause fluid leakage from the inner ear into the middle ear, known as perilymph fistula.

  • Ototoxic (harmful to hearing) medications.

  • Tumors, such as acoustic neuroma.

  • Viral or bacterial infections, such as ear infections.

  • Impacted earwax.