What causes hearing loss?


6 minutes

09 April 2021

Blog image - what causes hearing loss

According to our friends at Audika, here are the main types of hearing loss, what causes them, and what you can do about it.

We’ve consulted with our friends at Audika to prepare this article. The information and research presented here is thanks to their team.

When it comes to hearing loss, the first thing most people think of is exposure to loud noise. You might also know that hearing loss is more common in people of advanced age.

While these common associations are not incorrect, you might be surprised how many other things can cause hearing loss.

This is because there are actually different types of hearing loss with many causes.

If you aim to identify, check on and manage your hearing loss, it can really help to know something about all of this.

So, what do you need to know?

For each type of hearing loss, we’re going to quickly break down:

  • Causes
  • What you can do about it

Sensorineural Hearing Loss1

This is the most common type of hearing loss. People often refer to this as ‘nerve deafness. It occurs when the delicate structures of the inner ear or cochlear and/or its associated nerves are damaged.

Causes include:

  • Prolonged exposure to loud noise
  • Age-related changes
  • Illnesses such as meningitis, measles, mumps and Meniere’s disease
  • Inherited factors

What can you do about it?

Medical treatment is not possible in most cases. Steps can be taken to manage your loss. Having a hearing check is the first place to start.

Conductive hearing loss2

This type of hearing loss has to do with the outer or middle ear. Most of the time, these problems occur because something is physically blocking sound from getting through.

Causes for outer ear canal problems include:

  • Blockage by ear wax or foreign objects
  • Ear canal infection or ‘swimmer’s ear’
  • Bony growths in the canal known as exostoses or ‘surfer’s ear’
  • Genetic causes

Causes for middle ear problems include:

  • Middle ear infection or ‘glue ear’ (a build-up of fluid) – most common in children
  • Perforated eardrum that does not heal
  • Damage to the tiny bones that conduct sound
  • Benign growth in the middle ear

What can you do about it?

Conductive hearing loss problems can often be treated with surgery or other forms of medical management.

Mixed Hearing Loss3

This is when there is an issue with the middle ear and inner ear system. This can happen when there are multiple conditions co-existing or in cases of Otosclerosis (a form of bony growth in the ears that can block hearing).

Causes, symptoms and treatments can be a combination of the above.

Age-related hearing loss

This isn’t a specific type of hearing loss, but because age is such a big factor, it’s worth learning more about.

As we grow older, the daily wear and tear on our ears can gradually reduce their effectiveness. As many as 1 in 2 Australians over the age of 60 experience some form of hearing loss.4

As this happens, it can become harder to hear soft voices and high-frequency sounds like the voices of children and women. It can also become difficult to follow conversations when there’s background noise.

Hearing loss is usually gradual, so you might not realise you’ve lost some of your ability to hear. Often, family members notice age-related hearing loss before the sufferer becomes aware of it.

What can you do about it?

Get a hearing check.

The next step: get a hearing check

If you think you might have some hearing loss, a good first step is to get your hearing checked.

So, why not head to Audika for a free hearing check today?* If Audika assesses you at being at higher risk of hearing loss or hearing loss is detected during the hearing check, you will be offered a more comprehensive hearing test free of charge. 

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  1. 1Sensorineural Hearing Loss, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  2. 2Conductive Hearing Loss, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  3. 3Mixed Hearing Loss, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  4. 4Based on data from the Hearing Care Industry Association, Hearing for Life – The value of hearing services for vulnerable Australians, 2020 report as well as data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.


This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.

*Free Hearing Check and/or Test available to adults aged 26 years or above.