As we age, we become more susceptible to various ear disorders. Hearing impairment increases with age, often because of a lifetime exposure to noise, illnesses, trauma, or other causes of hearing loss. Damage to the delicate structures of the inner ear can have a cumulative effect. Hair cells within the inner ear that send messages to the brain can become broken or damaged. Other structures that are associated with balance may also break down, leading to balance disorders. On the other hand, adults are much less susceptible to middle ear infections, a common affliction in toddlers and small children.