Many people who suffer from hearing loss assume that it is simply due to aging and is 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 health disorder, disease or some other medical condition. Below you’ll find a list of several common diseases and medical conditions that can lead to hearing loss, and we explain the various causes and treatments available.
NOTE: This is not a complete list. Please consult your doctor or hearing care professional for more detailed information on these or other conditions.
The cause and treatment of hearing loss can depend on which part of the body has been compromised. For example, problems with the ear canal, ear drum or middle ear are referred to as Conductive Hearing Loss. If the problem is within the inner ear, that condition is referred to as Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) or Nerve-Related Hearing Loss. Lastly if there’s an issue with both the outer and inner ear or auditory nerve, this is referred to as Mixed Hearing Loss.
Next we’ll go into what types of medical conditions can cause each form of hearing loss. First we’ll tackle Conductive Hearing Loss.
There are several main causes of Conductive Hearing Loss, and they are:
- Malformation of outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear structures
- Fluid in the middle ear from colds
- Ear infection
- Poor Eustachian tube function
- Perforated eardrum
- Benign tumors
- Impacted earwax
- Infection in the ear canal
- Foreign body in the ear
If your hearing loss is the result of an acute infection, it can usually be treated with antibiotic or antifungal medications. However, chronic ear infections, chronic middle fluid and tumors typically require surgery. Infectious middle ear fluid, for example, is usually treated with antibiotics but chronic non-infectious middle ear fluid requires surgery to insert pressure equalizing tubes into the eardrum. Surgery may also be needed if the cause of your conductive hearing loss is from head trauma, otosclerosis, congenital absence, malformation, congenital absence of ear canal or failure of the ear canal to be open at birth, or dysfunction of the middle ear structures.
Next, is Sensorineural Hearing Loss.
The common causes of this type of hearing loss are:
- Exposure to loud noise
- Head trauma
- Virus or disease
- Autoimmune inner ear disease
- Hearing loss that runs in the family
- Malformation of the inner ear
- Meniere’s Disease
Hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud noise, viruses or disease (such as autoimmune inner ear disease) are medically treated with corticosteroids and sometimes drug therapy. Meniere’s Disease is also treated with corticosteroids, in addition to diuretics and a low-sodium diet. If vertigo (a common symptom of Meniere’s Disease) is not medically controlled, surgical procedures may be necessary. Other causes that may require surgery are head trauma or abrupt changes in air pressure and tumors. If the hearing loss is a result of disease in the central nervous system, doctors focus on treating the specific disease affecting the nervous system. Lastly, the most common form of hearing loss, irreversible sensorineural hearing loss, is managed with hearing aids. If hearing aids prove insufficient, the patient can be surgically treated with cochlear implants.
Not only can medical conditions cause symptoms of hearing loss, but there are 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.
For any questions about hearing loss or to schedule a hearing test, contact the audiologist and hearing care professionals at Krista Szalc, Audiology PLLC. We will gladly answer any questions you have. So don’t wait. Contact us today!