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    Hearing Loss

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    The Causes and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

    (continued)

    Types of Hearing Loss continued...

    Sensorineural hearing loss happens most often from damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. Other causes include damage to the nerve for hearing, called the auditory nerve, or the brain. It’s usually happens as you get older, but it also can happen because of noise exposure, chemotherapy, radiation, trauma, and your genes.

    Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. There may be a problem in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear or auditory nerve. It can happen after a head injury, long-term infection, or because of a disorder that runs in your family.

    Hearing loss can affect one or both ears. It can happen suddenly or gradually get worse over time. If you notice sudden hearing loss, you should see an ear, nose, and throat specialist as soon as possible.

    Severe Hearing Loss Causes

    When your hearing is normal, sound waves enter your outer ear and cause your eardrum and middle ear bones to vibrate. The sound waves then travel through your inner ear, which is a shell-shaped, fluid-filled tube called the cochlea. As the fluid moves, it sets in motion thousands of tiny hairs that convert the sound vibrations into nerve impulses. Those impulses go to your brain where they are processed into sounds you can recognize.

    Hearing loss happens when there's a problem with the structures of the ear that process sound. Any of these conditions can lead to severe hearing loss:

    Age. As people get older, the structures in the ear become less elastic. The tiny hairs get damaged and can’t respond to sound waves as well. Hearing loss can get worse over several years.

    Loud noise. The blare of power tools, airplanes, or loud music on headphones, for example, can damage the hair cells in the cochlea. How much hearing you lose depends on the volume of the sound and how long you were around it.

    Ear infections. They can make fluid build up in the middle ear. Usually, the hearing loss from an ear infection is mild and goes away shortly. But if you don’t treat the infections, they can lead to serious long-term problems.

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