We often assume that hearing loss is associated with the effects of getting older, but hearing loss can be caused by many factors besides the aging process.
The exact cause of hearing loss is not always known but research shows that many illnesses and diseases can be contributing factors. Here are some of the most common illnesses associated with hearing loss:
Middle ear infection: This can be a viral or bacterial infection of the middle ear and build-up of fluid in the middle ear can dampen perception of sound. An ear infection, if treated, can be a temporary cause of hearing loss.
Diabetes: People with diabetes are two times more at risk for developing hearing loss compared to persons with normal blood sugar levels. High blood glucose can cause damage to the smaller blood vessels throughout the body, including the inner ear, preventing optimal sound transmission.
Meniere’s disease: A disorder that affects the inner ear resulting in both hearing and balance difficulties. It can result in sudden attacks of vertigo (extreme dizziness), tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and temporary or permanent hearing loss. Meniere’s disease is chronic, but treatment and lifestyle changes can help ease symptoms.
Acoustic neuroma: A non-cancerous tumor on the auditory nerve. These tumors may start out small, but as they grow, they press on the surrounding nerves and structures of the ear, blocking sound transmission. Even if a neuroma can be successfully removed in surgery, a patient may still experience some loss of hearing in the affected ear. There is also the possibility of auditory nerve damage during surgery which can contribute to hearing loss.
Otosclerosis: A hereditary condition that is caused by the abnormal growth of bone inside the middle ear, disrupting the transmission of sound. Otosclerosis can be treated to avoid permanent hearing loss.
Cholesteatoma: A skin cyst that appears in the middle ear. Patients can be born with it, or it can develop as a result of chronic ear infections. As the cyst grows, it is likely to become infected, impairing hearing and causing dizziness.
Multiple sclerosis: An autoimmune disease that causes the deterioration of the body’s nerve protection. Hearing loss has occasionally been reported as one of the earliest symptoms of the disease.
Sequences and syndromes: Although not a disease, but rather due to genetic abnormalities; hearing loss is associated with many sequences and syndromes such as Down syndrome, Usher syndrome and Pierre Robin sequence.
Ototoxicity: Although hearing loss is a symptom of disease, hearing loss is just as common as a side effect in the treatment of many diseases. Certain drugs are harmful to the structures in the ear that can cause temporary or permanent hearing impairment based on the duration and dosage of the drug. Aspirin, ibuprofen, some antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and some cancer medicines have been known to have ototoxic properties.
Early identification is essential to successful treatment outcomes. Inform your health care provider if you may be struggling from any of the above-mentioned symptoms or experience any form of hearing difficulty.