Frequently asked questions about hearing loss


(Frequently asked questions)

What are common reasons for hearing difficulties in children?

Some causes of the hearing loss in children are described below:

How common is a hearing loss in children?
It’s quite common. About four in every 1,000 children at school entry level in Ireland have unilateral (in one ear) and bilateral (in both ears) mild to profound hearing loss. That means between 3,000 to 4,500 preschool and school age children in Ireland will have a permanent hearing impairment, with potential consequences for communication, literacy, social and emotional development, and later employability.
Why is it important to detect hearing loss as early as possible?
Children learn to communicate by imitating the sounds they hear. If they have a hearing loss that is undetected and untreated, they can miss much of the speech and language around them. This results in delayed speech/language development, social problems and academic difficulties.
Types of paediatric hearing loss
There are two primary categories of the hearing loss in children: congenital (present at birth) and acquired (occurring after birth). These hearing losses may be sensorineural, conductive or mixed.
What is a conductive hearing loss?
Frequently, hearing loss in young children is conductive. This is often temporary and caused by earwax or middle ear infections. Many children with temporary hearing loss can have their hearing restored through medical treatment or minor surgery.
What is a sensorineural hearing loss?
Some children have sensorineural hearing loss (also called nerve deafness), which is permanent. Most of these children have some usable hearing, and children as young as three months of age can be fitted with hearing aids.
Possible causes of congenital hearing loss
  • Infections during pregnancy (German measles, toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus)
  • Ototoxic medication used during pregnancy
  • Birth complications (serious infection present at birth, such as toxoplasmosis, herpes, rubella or cytomegalovirus; birth weight less than 3 lbs; unusual appearance of baby’s head, face or ears; baby required blood transfusion; or drugs used for respiratory life-sustaining measures on premature infant)
  • Disorder of the brain or nervous system
  • Genetic syndromes, such as Ushers, Down’s and Waardenburg’s syndromes
  • Family history of hearing loss
  • Possible causes of acquired hearing loss
  • Untreated middle ear infections
  • Other infections, such as meningitis, mumps, measles or a whooping cough
  • Perforation of the eardrum
  • Excessive noise, such as fireworks or loud music
  • Serious injury to the head
  • Ototoxic medication
What is a sensorineural hearing loss?
Some children have sensorineural hearing loss (also called nerve deafness), which is permanent. Most of these children have some usable hearing, and children as young as three months of age can be fitted with hearing aids.
What is glue ear?
Glue ear is a condition where the middle ear fills with glue-like fluid instead of air. This causes dulled hearing. It usually affects children and is also known as chronic otitis media with effusion (OME); secretory otitis media, or middle-ear effusion. In most cases, it clears without any treatment. Temporary childhood hearing impairment due to ‘glue ear’ is widespread, with an 80% prevalence at some point between birth and seven years of age; 3% of young adults have a hearing loss due to childhood glue ear. If glue ear is persistent (longer than three months), your doctor may recommend surgery. This may involve the insertion of grommets (ventilation tubes).
Are babies screened for hearing loss at birth?
Prior to 2011, newborn hearing screening was pioneered in three areas through the efforts of local hospital clinicians (Galway, Sligo/Letterkenny, Kerry). The National Newborn Hearing Screening Programme is now running throughout the country.
How will I know if my preschool and older child has a hearing difficulty?

It is important to observe your child for any signs of potential hearing loss.

Does your child:

  • Turn up the volume of the TV excessively loud?
  • Respond inappropriately to questions?
  • Not reply when you call him/her?
  • Watch others imitate what they are doing?
  • Have articulation problems or speech/language delays?
  • Have problems academically?
  • Complain of earaches, ear pain or head noises?
  • Have difficulty understanding what people are saying?
  • Seem to speak differently from other children his or her age?

While these signs don’t necessarily mean that your child has a hearing problem, they could be indicators of one. If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, or if you suspect your child may have difficulty hearing, an appointment should be with your GP who will investigate further and refer you to an audiologist (hearing expert) or ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) consultant, if necessary.

What causes hearing loss in adults?

Hearing loss in adults can either be inherited from your parents or acquired from illness, ototoxic (ear-damaging) drugs, exposure to loud noise, tumours, head injury, or the ageing process. This loss may occur by itself or with tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Some causes of the hearing loss in adults are described below:


The ringing noise people experience in their ears after going to a concert or listening to loud music can be described as tinnitus.

In some cases, tinnitus is only temporary and goes away given time. Yet for others, the ringing noise is constant and interferes with their ability to concentrate or hear actual sound. The majority of us will experience tinnitus at some point. It is not usually the presence of the tinnitus that is an issue, but rather how an individual thinks and feels about it. When tinnitus becomes problematic, sufferers often associate it with feelings of fear and anxiety leading to stress and frustration.

Tinnitus can be caused by several factors, such as age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noise or earwax blockage.

Tinnitus can cause anxiety and stress responses in the body, through the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary processes in the body such as heart rate, breathing and blood distribution. Around 1-2% of people with tinnitus are bothered so much that sleep, relaxation and concentration are affected.

Other helpful tips:

Avoid silence.  Keeping your ears busy with background noise, such as the television or radio, can help your brain focus on those sounds instead of the ringing noise.

Keep calm and relaxed.  Tinnitus can be triggered by stress and tiredness, so relaxing activities like a massage or yoga can offer relief.

Check your medications. Some medications can cause or worsen tinnitus, so it’s essential to tell your family doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms.  Take special care with medications for arthritis, anti-depressants, rheumatic diseases and some antibiotics.

Limit your caffeine.  Consuming caffeine can temporarily worsen tinnitus for some people.

So, what next?

The first step is to identify what is causing tinnitus and, if necessary, take a hearing test.

You can ask about our popular tinnitus relief Sound Oasis Therapy System that has been clinically proven to help diminish tinnitus discomfort to create a relaxing atmosphere to help you fall asleep.

Thi is a disease involving the middle ear. It affects the movement of the tiny bones in the middle ear. Otosclerosis can cause a conductive type of hearing loss. This condition is often surgically treatable.
Ménière's disease
Ménière’s disease affects the inner ear. The cause of Ménière’s disease is unknown. It usually begins between the ages of 30 and 50. A person with Ménière’s disease will often have a combination of sensorineural hearing loss, dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and sensitivity to loud sounds. This type of hearing loss is managed by a doctor and audiologist. Some people with Ménière’s disease report mild symptoms, but for others, the symptoms are much worse. The hearing loss comes and goes, but over time some loss becomes permanent.
Autoimmune inner ear disease
This sudden onset hearing loss is fast, dramatic, and should be medically treated as soon as possible. With swift medical treatment, the hearing loss from this disease can be reduced.
Ototoxic medications

Ototoxic medications can cause hearing loss. Some drugs known to be ototoxic are:

Aminoglycoside antibiotics (such as streptomycin, neomycin, or kanamycin)
Salicylates in large quantities (aspirin)
Loop diuretics (lasix or ethacrynic acid)
Drugs used in chemotherapy regimens (cisplatin, carboplatin, or nitrogen mustard)

Very loud noise
Very loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss. This is called noise-induced hearing loss. Listening to loud noise for long periods of time can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. Noise-induced hearing loss usually develops gradually and painlessly. A single exposure to an extremely loud sound such as an explosion can cause a sudden loss of hearing. This is called acoustic trauma.
Acoustic neuroma
Acoustic neuroma is an example of a tumour that causes hearing loss. Symptoms can include hearing loss or ringing in one ear accompanied by a feeling of fullness. Treatment for acoustic neuroma is medical. Physical head injury can lead to traumatic brain injury (TBI), skull fractures, a hole in the eardrum, and damage to the middle ear structures, resulting in hearing loss.
Presbycusis is a sensorineural hearing loss that occurs gradually later in life. The condition affects hearing in both ears over time. The speech begins to sound muffled or unclear because the ability to hear high pitch sounds is the first to go. Rhyming mistakes can occur—for example, the high-pitched sound /t/ in the word tin is heard as /f/ in the word fin, causing confusion: “The roof is made of tin” is heard as “The roof is made of fin.”

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