If you’ve been experiencing difficulty hearing, there may be an underlying medical condition or illness that’s causing it. Indeed, hearing loss is a common condition affecting people of all ages, and while age-related hearing loss is most prevalent, hearing difficulties can also be caused by other factors.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some illnesses, conditions, and medical events that can lead to hearing problems, how they can affect your ability to hear, and what you can do about it. Let’s get started.
Learn more about hearing and the ear
Before we start discussing illnesses and other conditions that may cause hearing loss, it’s important to understand how the ear works and what triggers hearing loss.
For example, more than 30 million people in the United States alone are affected by some degree of hearing loss. And, while this condition is more common among older adults, it can affect anyone at any age due to genetic, environmental, and congenital factors.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, HearingResearch.org is a great resource to explore. Now, let’s look at some medical events that may lead to this condition.
Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss)
Presbycusis is the gradual loss of hearing that occurs as people age, usually starting around age 60. It is the most common cause of hearing loss and affects about one in three people between ages 65 and 74, and up to half of all people 75 years or older.
It is caused by the decline of hair cells in the ear canal as well as changes in the ear and auditory nerve.
Earwax buildup can be a common cause of temporary hearing loss. This occurs when excess earwax blocks the ear canal, preventing sound from passing through. If left untreated, this condition can lead to permanent damage to cells in the ear canal, which causes long-lasting hearing loss.
Otosclerosis is a condition that affects the bones in your middle ear. This bone overgrowth can result in conductive hearing loss, which occurs when sound waves cannot reach the inner ear effectively. Symptoms of otosclerosis may include tinnitus, vertigo, and dizziness.
Although hearing loss is not one of the early signs of diabetes, the two conditions are connected in more ways than one. Indeed, high blood sugar levels and sudden spikes and drops in blood glucose can damage the small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss.
What’s more, diabetes is sometimes connected with other conditions (like diabetes and circulatory problems) and taking medications that may damage the ear.
Meniere’s Disease is a condition that affects the inner ear and presents with symptoms such as vertigo, tinnitus, and a feeling of fullness in the ear. This disease can cause hearing loss that develops gradually over time, typically affecting one ear initially before eventually impacting both. The hearing loss associated with Meniere’s Disease often progresses to become permanent.
Measles is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. While the primary symptoms of measles are rash, cough, and fever, it can also lead to middle ear infections and hearing loss in some patients. In severe cases, measles can even cause permanent hearing loss.
If you feel like your hearing loss is accompanied by a feeling of fullness in your ear, tinnitus, or balance issues, it could be due to an Acoustic Neuroma. This is a benign tumor that grows on the nerve responsible for transmitting sound and balance information to the brain. Depending on its size and location, this tumor can cause hearing loss in one ear, ringing in the ears, or dizziness.
Otitis Media is an infection of the middle ear that causes inflammation and fluid buildup. This can affect the transmission of sound to the inner ear, resulting in temporary or permanent hearing loss. Children are more susceptible to this type of hearing loss due to the size and shape of their ear’s Eustachian tubes.
Ototoxic medications refer to drugs that can cause damage to the structures of the inner ear and lead to hearing loss. Some examples of these medications include antibiotics like gentamicin, chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin, and aspirin at high doses. If you are taking any of these medications, it is important to discuss with your doctor the risks and benefits of their use and what steps can be taken to minimize their harmful effects on your hearing.
Noise-induced hearing loss
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the most common cause of hearing loss in younger people. This hearing loss happens when sound exposure, usually at work or during leisure activities, leads to damage to the delicate hair cells of the inner ear. Symptoms include tinnitus and difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments.
Understanding the impact that different noises can have on your hearing, limiting exposure to prevent damage to the ear, and using ear protection devices can help you avoid this medical condition.
Partner with a hearing specialist
By consulting with a professional, you can receive personalised and comprehensive hearing care that caters to your unique needs. This is especially important if you have underlying conditions like diabetes, which can contribute to hearing loss. Don’t let hearing loss go unchecked – seek out the help of a specialist to ensure that your ears stay healthy for years to come.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.