Why Does Hearing Loss Happen?

Why Does Hearing Loss Happen

Hearing is a fundamental sense that connects us to the world. It allows us to communicate, stay alert, and enjoy life’s simple pleasures, like music and conversations with loved ones. However, hearing loss is a prevalent issue affecting millions worldwide. But why does hearing loss happen? This blog post will explore the complexities of hearing and the various causes behind hearing loss.

Understanding the Ear

To comprehend hearing loss, we must first understand the ear’s anatomy and its function. The ear comprises three main parts, each playing a crucial role in how we hear.

Outer Ear

The outer ear consists of the pinna (auricle) and the ear canal. These structures funnel sound waves into the ear, acting as a natural amplifier and directing the sound toward the middle ear.

Middle Ear

The middle ear houses the eardrum and three tiny bones known as ossicles (the hammer, anvil, and stirrup). These components amplify the sound waves and transmit them to the inner ear. The Eustachian tube, also part of the middle ear, helps equalize pressure to ensure proper vibration of the eardrum.

Inner Ear

The inner ear is at the heart of hearing, home to the cochlea, hair cells, and the auditory nerve. The cochlea converts sound vibrations into electrical signals. Hair cells in the cochlea detect these signals, which are then sent through the auditory nerve to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound.

How We Hear

Hearing starts when sound waves enter the outer ear. They travel through the ear canal and hit the eardrum, making it vibrate. The three tiny bones in the middle ear pick up these vibrations. They work together to make the vibrations stronger and send them to the inner ear.

In the inner ear, the cochlea, which is full of fluid and hair cells, turns these vibrations into electrical signals. The hair cells move when the fluid shakes and this movement creates electrical signals. These signals go to the brain through the auditory nerve. The brain then tells us what we are hearing, like someone talking or a dog barking.

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be categorized into different types, each with its symptoms and causes.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss happens when there’s a problem with the path that sound waves take to get through the ear. This type includes issues with the outer or middle ear, like ear infections, blockages (such as earwax), or damage to the eardrum. These obstacles prevent sound from being carried efficiently into the inner ear. Imagine it like a blocked road that stops cars from getting to their destination. In this case, the sounds can’t reach the part of your ear that turns them into signals for your brain.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type and occurs when there’s damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This might happen because of aging, loud noise exposure, infections, head injuries, or genetics. Think of it as a broken microphone; even if the sound reaches the microphone, it can’t be properly passed along or amplified. People with this type of hearing loss might find sounds to be muffled or have difficulty understanding speech, especially where there’s a lot of background noise.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This means that there might be a problem in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear or auditory nerve. For example, someone could have an ear infection that makes it hard for sound to get through (conductive hearing loss) and also damage their inner ear hair cells from being around loud noises a lot (sensorineural hearing loss). People with mixed hearing loss might find it very hard to hear because they are dealing with both types of problems at the same time.

Other Causes of Hearing Loss

Beyond the types of hearing loss, other factors can contribute to auditory impairment.

Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s Disease is a condition that affects the inner ear. It can make people feel like they are spinning, which is called vertigo, and causes hearing loss. The exact reason why people get Meniere’s Disease is not known, but it has to do with fluid problems in the inner ear. People with this disease might also hear ringing in their ears, feel pressure inside their ear, or even lose their hearing over time. It usually affects only one ear.

Head Injury

Traumatic events that involve a blow to the head can lead to hearing loss. This type of injury can damage parts of the ear, such as the eardrum or ossicles, making it hard for sound to travel through the ear the way it’s supposed to. It might also harm the inner ear or the nerve paths that lead to the brain, affecting how sound signals are sent and processed. Whether the hearing loss is temporary or permanent depends on the severity of the injury. Safety measures like wearing helmets when biking or playing contact sports can help prevent these types of injuries.


Genetics plays a significant role in hearing loss, too. Just like we inherit the colour of our eyes or hair from our parents, we can also inherit the tendency to lose our hearing. Some people are born with hearing difficulties because of their family’s genes. This means that if your mom, dad, or grandparents had trouble hearing, you might be more likely to have hearing problems as well. Genetic hearing loss can show up right when a baby is born, or it might not become noticeable until later in life. It’s important for doctors to know about your family’s health history to understand and help with any hearing issues.


Understanding the causes of hearing loss is the first step toward prevention and treatment. If you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing hearing difficulties, it’s crucial to get tested. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in quality of life.

Hearing connects us to the world, and protecting this vital sense is paramount. If you have concerns about your hearing, contact Total Hearing for a comprehensive hearing test. Together, we can ensure that you continue to enjoy all the beautiful sounds life has to offer.