Many people who are suffering through the early stages of hearing loss assume that their conditions are just a fact of life. As they get older, people accept that they need to wear glasses or stretch before walking long distances, so it’s only natural that their ears would have trouble due to age. But in some cases, hearing loss isn’t merely a side effect of aging, but a complication caused by a more serious health condition.
Medical Conditions That Have Been Known to Cause Hearing Loss
It is important to undergo a full hearing examination to determine the cause of your hearing loss. You may need a referral to a medical provider to test for an underlying condition that could be causing difficulty hearing, including:
- Diabetes. Hearing loss is more common in diabetes patients than it is in people with normal blood sugar levels. High blood glucose can cause damage to the smaller blood vessels throughout the body, including the inner ear, preventing proper sound transmission.
- Childhood infections. Measles and mumps can cause both temporary and permanent hearing loss in children, particularly unborn infants. Individuals with measles are more likely to suffer from ear infections, suffering inflammation and fluid buildup in the ear canal. Mumps contracted in childhood can cause one-sided total deafness later in life if the disease is not treated properly.
- Sexually transmitted diseases. STDs such as herpes and syphilis can carry hearing loss symptoms. Syphilis-induced hearing loss can be successfully treated if caught early, but lack of treatment can allow the condition to progress into total deafness.
- Osteoporosis. One in every 5,000 people with osteoporosis is likely to experience sudden hearing loss in one ear, likely due to the softening of bones in the middle ear.
- Multiple sclerosis. About five percent of MS suffers experience hearing problems due to their neurological conditions. Hearing loss has occasionally been reported as one of the earliest symptoms of the disease. A patient may experience hearing loss during an acute episodes of MS, but these symptoms often subside after the episode is over.
- Meningitis. Meningitis is a serious viral or bacterial infection in the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Patients with meningitis often experience hearing problems, as well as headaches, neck stiffness, fevers, confusion, and sensitivity to increased noise and light levels.
- Acoustic neuroma. Acoustic neuroma is 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.
- Cholesteatoma. Cholesteatoma is 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. When a patient suffers repeated ear infections, negative pressure in the middle ear space can pull the eardrum toward the inner ear, forming a skin-lined cyst. As the cyst grows, it is likely to become infected, impairing hearing and causing dizziness or vertigo.
- Ménière’s disease. Ménière’s disease is an inner ear disorder that can disrupt both hearing and balance. It can result in sudden attacks of vertigo (extreme dizziness), tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and temporary or permanent hearing loss. Fluid imbalances in the inner ear can cause extreme vertigo, causing disabling nausea or vomiting.
- Ostosclerosis. Otosclerosis is a hereditary condition that causes an overgrowth of bone inside the middle ear. Patients often suffer tinnitus, dizziness, and hearing loss and the ear structures lose more and more function. Women are far more likely to develop otosclerosis than men, and hearing loss caused by the condition happens before middle age, typically between the ages of 11 and 30.
Not only can medical conditions cause symptoms of hearing loss, but many medications can cause hearing damage as well. A special class of medicines known as ototoxic drugs damage the structures of the ear and can lead to hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and vertigo. Hearing is sometimes restored after the patient discontinues the medication, but in some cases these drugs can cause permanent damage to the inner ear. Aspirin, ibuprofen, some antibiotics, blood pressure medications, and some cancer medicines have been known to have ototoxic properties.
Our Specialists Can Determine the Cause of Your Hearing Loss
The first step in successfully treating a hearing condition is to pinpoint the cause of the problem and treat it right at the source. Our Philadelphia-area hearing care specialists will diagnose your condition using a full health history and comprehensive exam, letting you know exactly what to do to restore your hearing. Call the number on this page to make an appointment with our office nearest you!