Causes of Hearing Loss in Adults

Hearing loss in adults has many causes such as, exposure to noise, disease or infection, ototoxic drugs, tumors, trauma and the ageing process. Some examples of causes of hearing loss in adults are described below:


Presbycusis is the most common cause of sensory hearing loss in the adult population. This loss is caused by some degenerative changes (in the auditory system) associated with the ageing process. The hearing loss is progressive in nature with the high frequencies affected first. While the process begins after age 20-30, it is often at ages 55 to 65 that the high frequencies in the speech range begin to be affected.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

This is the second most common cause of acquired sensorineural hearing loss. Prolonged exposure to loud noise causes damage to the hair cells in the cochlea and results in this type of permanent hearing loss. The noise-induced hearing loss usually develops gradually and painlessly. Sometimes the hearing loss can occur as a result of an acoustic trauma, or a single exposure or very few exposures to very high levels of sound. 

Otitis Media

This is the condition often referred to as an ear infection. When otitis media occurs, fluid accumulates behind the eardrum in the middle ear space. 


This is a progressive ear disease involving the middle ear bone structure affecting the movement of the stapes (one of the three small bones in the middle ear).

Meniere's Disease

This is an inner ear disease and is characterized by progressive fluctuating sensorineural hearing loss, vertigo (dizziness) , and tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

Ototoxic Drugs

Drugs used to treat some diseases are damaging to the auditory system (ototoxic) and cause hearing loss.  The damage caused by these drugs often depends on the dose administered and length of time used and is usually permanent.

Acoustic Neuroma

This is a benign tumour which causes sensorineural hearing loss. Acoustic neuromas arise in the acoustic nerve. Common symptoms can include single sided hearing loss, tinnitus and  vertigo.


Trauma can cause a hearing loss. Damage can occur as a result of trauma to the ear itself or to the side of the head. Examples include fractures of the temporal bone, puncture of the ear drum by foreign objects and sudden changes in air pressure.

Sudden Hearing Loss

This is an abrupt loss of hearing. Common causes of sudden hearing loss include drugs, trauma, infection, or disease. It is vitally important that you present yourself to the nearest emergency department as early intervention can result in restoration of hearing.