Temporarily losing your hearing can be a scary thing, but there are many causes for temporary hearing loss, and not all of them are severe. It is important to consult a physician or an audiologist if you experience any type of hearing loss.
In adults, the most common causes of hearing loss are:
Noise. Noise-induced hearing loss can affect people of all ages and most often develops gradually over many years. Over time, the noise experienced at work, during recreation (such as riding motorcycles), or even common chores (such as using a power lawn mower) can lead to hearing loss.
Age. In age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), changes in the nerves and cells of the inner ear that occur as you get older cause a gradual but steady hearing loss. The loss may be mild or severe, but it is always permanent.
Other causes of hearing loss include:
Earwax buildup or an object in the ear. Hearing loss because of earwax is common and easily treated.
Ototoxic medicines (such as certain antibiotics) and other substances (such as arsenic, mercury, tin, lead, and manganese) that can damage the ear.
Injury to the ear or head. Head injuries can also damage the structures in the ear and cause a sudden hearing loss.
Ear infection, such as a middle ear infection (otitis media) or an infection of the ear canal (otitis externa or swimmer’s ear).
Fluid in the middle ear after a cold or the flu, or after traveling on an airplane.
Otosclerosis, a condition that affects the bones of the middle ear.
Acoustic neuroma, a noncancerous tumor on the nerve that helps people hear.
Ménière’s disease. Ménière’s disease may result in temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Noncancerous (benign) growths, such as exostoses, osteomas, and glomus tumors. These can cause hearing loss if they block the ear canal. Exostoses are bone growths that often develop when the ear canal is repeatedly exposed to cold water or cold air.
Other medical conditions that do not affect the ear directly may also cause hearing loss.
An interruption of the blood flow to the inner ear or parts of the brain that control hearing may lead to hearing loss. This may be caused by heart disease, stroke,high blood pressure, or diabetes.
Autoimmune hearing loss can occur in one or both ears and can come and go or get worse over 3 to 4 months. An autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may be present.
Symptoms of hearing loss include:
Difficulty understanding what people are saying, especially when there are competing voices or background noise. You may be able to hear someone speaking, but you cannot distinguish the specific words.
Listening to the television or radio at a higher volume than in the past.
Avoiding conversation and social interaction. Social situations can be tiring and stressful if you do not hear well. You may begin to avoid those situations as hearing becomes more difficult.
Other symptoms that may occur with hearing loss include:
Ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus).
Ear pain, itching, or irritation.
Pus or fluid leaking from the ear. This may result from an injury or infection that is causing hearing loss.
Vertigo, which can occur with hearing loss caused by Ménière’s disease,acoustic neuroma, or labyrinthitis.