Hearing loss is a decrease in the ability to perceive and distinguish sounds. It can be complete or partial, sudden or gradual, temporary or permanent. It can affect one ear or both. Usually the risk of hearing loss increases with age. But sometimes due to certain causes, hearing loss can happen in young adults.

Causes of Hearing Impairment

One of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss in teenagers and young adults (when the sounds cannot get through the outer and middle ear) is otitis media, which is the medical term for an ear infection that influences the middle ear. Ear infections cause an accumulation of fluid or pus behind the eardrum, which obstruct the transmission of sound. Even after the infection is treated, fluid might stay in the middle ear for weeks or even months, causing difficulty hearing. But this is a temporary condition, and once the fluid is gone, a person’s hearing usually returns to normal. Sometimes a foreign object, compressed earwax or dirt, or fluid as a result of colds and allergies, can also cause conductive hearing loss.

People also get conductive hearing loss when key parts of the ear — the eardrum, ear canal, or ossicles — are injured. If there is a tear or hole in the eardrum, it can interfere with its ability to vibrate as it should. Causes of such eardrum injury may include inserting an object such as a cotton swab too far into the ear, a sudden explosion or other loud noise, a rapid change in air pressure, a head injury, or recurring ear infections.

Sensorineural hearing impairment results from issues with or damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. Its causes include:

  • Genetic disorders that are inherited interfere with the proper development of the inner ear and/or the auditory nerve.
  • Head or ear traumas. Injuries such as a skull fracture can cause hearing loss.
  • Complications during pregnancy or birth. If the mother had some infections or illnesses while she was pregnant, they could influence the future baby’s hearing, more precisely the development of the inner ear. Premature babies are also at higher risk for hearing impairment.
  • Infections or illnesses. If a young adult gets repeated ear infections or certain deceases such as mumps, measles, chickenpox, they can also damage the structures of the inner ear.
  • Medications. Certain medications, such as some antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs, can cause hearing loss.
  • Loud noise. A sudden loud noise or exposure to high noise levels (such as loud music) over time can cause irreversible damage to the tiny hair cells inside the ear, which then can’t transmit sounds as effectively as they did before.

Prevention of hearing loss should become the main goal when it comes to young adults.

Young adults can harm their hearing by listening to the loud music or constantly wearing the earbuds or earphones. Fortunately, noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. Read on to find out some prevention tips.

1. Avoid too much noise

Easier said than done. In our everyday life the noise is inevitable. But how loud is too loud? If you find yourself in the environment where you have to shout over the continual noise around you, it is enough to damage your hearing. Sounds from motorcycles, concert speakers, power tools like saws and drills, earphones, and more are all loud enough to influence your hearing. Try to stay away from them as much as you can.

2. Stand for quieter surroundings

Opt for purchasing appliances and devices that have low noise ratings. And if there is a place where you go often like a restaurant or café, it is ok to ask the manager to turn the volume down a little bit in case if it is too loud.  

3. Reduce loud sounds in your everyday life

Sometimes the blare of an ambulance siren or the jackhammer on your street corner cannot be avoided. But it’s best to reduce the amount of time you’re around such sounds. Noise-induced hearing loss happens as a result of the loud sounds as well as their duration.

4. Wear hearing protection

If you know that you cannot avoid hearing loud sounds for more than a few minutes, think about wearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs.

5. Remove earwax properly

An accumulation of wax in your ears can muffle sound. But don’t use a cotton swab to clean wax out of your ears – they can push wax deeper in. Instead, use an ear irrigation kit to soften wax and gently flush it out. If it gets pressed in your ear, your otolaryngologist may need to remove it.

6. Check medications for hearing risks

Some medications can damage hearing, including certain antibiotics and cancer-fighting drugs. Even high doses of aspirin can harm your ears. If you were prescribed a medication that may be harmful to your ears, make sure your doctor inspects your hearing before and during your treatment.

7. Test your hearing

It is always a good idea to have your hearing tested especially if you:

  • Have close relatives with hearing loss
  • Have problems hearing conversations distinctly
  • Are around loud noises on a regular basis
  • Often feel ringing in your ears

If hearing loss is already there, you can avoid getting more damage by staying away from loud noises. If your problem is serious enough, think about a hearing aid or other treatment. If suddenly what you can hear has changed, be sure to see your doctor asap to prevent any other serious medical problems.