Six surprising causes of hearing loss

Posted by Matt Sadler

On the surface, if you have good hearing, it may seem like life wouldn’t change much if you developed a hearing loss. However, we know that the impact hearing loss can have on a person’s mental wellbeing and physical safety can be huge. 

Hearing loss

When most people imagine someone with hearing loss, they conjure up the image of an older person. And while it’s true that age-related hearing loss is one of the most common causes, there are many different medical and environmental causes of hearing loss that can happen at any age.  

Below we explain some causes of hearing loss that you may not expect, and how to get support if you’re concerned about your hearing. If you ever experience a sudden or rapid loss in your hearing, don’t delay in seeking urgent medical care.  

Headphones 

The humble headphone is now part of daily life for so many of us. However, many devices allow headphone volume to exceed what we would consider a ‘safe’ limit. Your ears adapt to higher volume settings over time, meaning that you can damage your hearing even if the volume doesn’t seem uncomfortable. 

Tips: Try to get into the habit of turning your volume down a couple of notches when you start listening. If you’re listening at a louder volume, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends limiting your listening time to 15 minutes. Also, check the settings on your mobile device as many devices now offer settings which can limit your volume exposure. You can find more information about safe listening practices on the WHO website. 

Hair dryers 

This may be surprising, but long or repeated exposure to the sound of a hair dryer, especially if held close to the ears, is loud enough to contribute to hearing loss over time. 

Tips: If you work in a hair salon, consider wearing ear protection such as earplugs. We have some ear protection products in our online shop. If you use a hairdryer at home, why not only use it to style your hair for special occasions, or embrace your natural air-dried look more often? There are also some lower-noise hair dryers on the market that may be worth looking into. 

Earwax 

Often, the reason for hearing loss can be really simple: too much earwax! For some people, as well as hearing loss, this can lead to dizziness, earache, and infection if it isn’t cleared. 

Tip: Never put anything into your ears, including your fingers, to try to remove the wax yourself. If you think you may have a build-up of wax in your ears, speak to your pharmacist who can suggest some ear drops to remove excess wax. If this doesn’t work, you may wish to see an accredited earwax removal specialist who can remove the wax safely.  

Sporting events 

Sports are such an important part of life for so many of us. Unfortunately, the mass cheering at live events and at pubs can be too loud for our ears and can put us at risk of hearing damage. 

Tip: If you hear ringing in your ears after being in a loud environment (a type of tinnitus) this is a sign that your ears have been exposed to loud noise for too long. If forgoing the footie is too much, consider wearing ear protection when you watch a game live or at the pub. We have some ear protection products in our online shop. 

Diabetes 

The charity Diabetes UK estimates that five million people in the UK are living with a type of diabetes. Unfortunately, complications relating to diabetes, including nerve damage and ear infections, can result in hearing loss for some people. 

Tips: If you are diabetic and are concerned about your hearing, speak to your doctor as soon as possible. The NHS website has more information about diabetes.   

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) 

Having cardiovascular disease increases the chances of someone experiencing hearing loss as it can reduce the level of blood flowing to the auditory system. According to the British Heart Foundation, there are 6.4 million people living with CVD in England alone.  

Tips: If you have cardiovascular disease and are concerned about your hearing, speak to your doctor as soon as possible. The NHS website has more information about CVD. 

If you’re worried about changes in your hearing 

If you ever experience a sudden or rapid loss in your hearing, seek urgent medical care at an Accident & Emergency department, and ask to see an ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) specialist. 

It can be really unsettling when your hearing changes. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone, and that seeking help as soon as possible can help prevent further issues from developing. As a first step, see an audiologist who can investigate the causes of your hearing changes further. You can be referred by your GP or visit a private audiologist. 

Our Hearing Link Services are here for anyone experiencing changes in their hearing, and their loved ones, to offer confidential guidance and support. Contact our Helpdesk by email at helpdesk@hearinglink.org, by telephone on 01844 348111 or via LiveChat at hearinglink.org 

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About the author

blog hearing dogs

Hi everyone, I'm Matt and I look after the Charity's social media, blog and e-newsletter.

I spend a lot of my day talking about our hearing dog superstars - it's a hard life!

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