Diseases and Health Conditions Associated with Hearing Loss - Attune
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Diseases and Health Conditions Associated with Hearing Loss

Health Conditions Associated with Hearing Loss

As we get older, we get used to the fact that we now may need reading glasses or have a little more trouble getting out of bed gracefully. Naturally, our hearing isn’t exempt from the effects of ageing. 

While hearing loss that is present at birth is known as congenital hearing loss, hearing loss that occurs after birth is called acquired hearing loss. 

The commonly known causes of hearing loss are manifold and can range from genetics to old age and noise exposure. 

Most of us are unaware that a range of health conditions and diseases can also cause varying levels of temporary and permanent hearing loss.  

In many cases, acquired hearing loss isn’t just a result of the natural ageing process but a symptom of an underlying health threat. 

To help you protect yourself and your loved ones, we will examine what conditions and diseases are associated with hearing loss! 

There are two types of hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. The combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss is called a ‘mixed’ hearing loss. 

Medical Conditions Known to Cause Hearing Loss

Please note that a complete hearing examination is required to make a diagnosis and determine the cause of your hearing loss. 

Contact your GP or a trusted local Audiologist to have your hearing assessed professionally and test for an underlying condition that could be causing your hearing loss. 

  • Diabetes 

As we’ve previously reported, people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss. Why? High blood sugar levels can cause damage to smaller blood vessels and increase the pressure on nerves in your ear, preventing proper sound transmission.

The inner ear relies on good blood circulation to maintain healthy hearing. If chemical changes in the body cause damage to these structures, hearing loss can become irreversible.

If you know that you suffer from diabetes, it’s essential to check your hearing regularly, but at least once a year. 

Meningitis

  • Meningitis 

Meningitis is a severe viral or bacterial infection of the brain and spinal cord – more precisely, the fluids and membranes of the brain and spinal cord. 

Symptoms may include intense headaches, neck stiffness, fevers, confusion, sensitivity to noise and light and hearing loss. 

While viral meningitis isn’t known to cause deafness, bacterial meningitis has been proven to result in sensorineural hearing loss. This implies that the infection has spread to the cochlea and irreversibly damaged hair cells. 

Meningitis can also cause inflammation of the auditory nerve, leading to mild through to profound hearing loss that may affect one or both ears.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may suffer from meningitis, do not hesitate to contact your GP!

  • Acoustic neuroma

Acoustic neuromas or vestibular schwannomas are non-cancerous tumours of the auditory nerve. 

They can start pretty small, but as they grow, they may press on the surrounding nerves and structures of the ear, which will eventually cause different levels of hearing loss and balance issues. 

In 90 per cent of patients, hearing loss is a side effect of their acoustic neuromas.

While most neuroma can be successfully removed in surgery, you may still experience some loss of hearing. 

Acoustic neuromas can only be diagnosed using a hearing test and MRI imaging of the skull, so don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your GP and Audiologist when you notice a change in your hearing.

Cholesteatoma

  • Cholesteatoma 

Cholesteatomas are skin-lined cysts that develop in the middle ear. While some people are born with cholesteatomas, others acquire them as a result of chronic ear infections. 

While this doesn’t sound serious at first, untreated cysts will grow. They may become infected and spread to bone structures, causing muscle paralysis, impairing your hearing and causing dizziness or vertigo.

Your GP or ENT can treat cholesteatomas by carefully cleaning the ear, paired with antibiotics to control the infection. Larger cholesteatomas may require surgical treatment to prevent serious complications.

  • Ménière’s disease

Ménière’s disease is a chronic inner ear condition that disrupts both your hearing and balance. Also referred to as endolymphatic hydrops, the disorder is caused by abnormal fluid fluctuations in the inner ear. 

It can cause sudden attacks of extreme dizziness, disabling nausea, tinnitus, and temporary or permanent hearing loss. 

Early diagnosis and management of Ménière’s disease are essential to prevent permanent hearing loss. The treatment options can include hearing aids, cochlear implants, CROS (contralateral routing of signals) or BiCROS.

If you are concerned about your hearing health, please reach out to your local accredited audiologist.

  • Otosclerosis 

Otosclerosis is a genetic condition that causes an overgrowth of bones in the middle ear, which then become stuck in place. That means the bone cannotvibrate, so that sound can no longer travel through your ear. 

It is a common cause of hearing loss in adults and affects about 1 in 200 people, typically between ages 11 to 30. Women are much more likely to develop otosclerosis than men.

If you suffer from otosclerosis, your ear structures lose more and more function, and you’re likely to experience tinnitus, dizziness and hearing loss. 

Otosclerosis will have to be diagnosed by your ENT specialist. The treatment options for otosclerosis include hearing aids or surgery to remove the tiny bones of the middle ear and replace them with an implant.

Childhood infections

  • Childhood infections 

Were you prone to suffer from ear infections as a child? Did you have measles or mumps? All of the above can cause varying degrees of temporary and permanent hearing loss, particularly if left untreated. 

  • Sexually transmitted diseases 

It may come as a surprise to you, but STDs such as herpes, syphilis and HIV can be accompanied by hearing loss symptoms, too. Sexually transmitted viruses can damage delicate inner ear structures and cause hearing loss in one or both ears – like any other virus. 

On top of that, HIV infections can cause conductive hearing loss since the immunosuppression caused by the virus creates a favourable environment for bacterial and fungal infections, which become even more frequent.

Luckily, most STDs are preventable and can be successfully treated if caught early.

  • Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a chronic health condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle. At least one study has linked osteoporosis to a doubled risk of sudden sensorineural hearing loss, likely due to the softening of bones in the middle ear.

One in every 5,000 people with osteoporosis is likely to experience sudden hearing loss. Risk factors for osteoporosis include age, gender, a history of falls and bone fractures, and lifestyle factors. 

Following diagnosis by a medical professional, osteoporosis can be managed with medicine and through lifestyle changes that may include exercise and quitting smoking.

  • Multiple sclerosis

According to the American Multiple Sclerosis Society, six per cent of people who suffer from MS, a chronic condition of the brain and spinal cord, suffer from impaired hearing. 

The neurological condition damages the hearing nerve pathways in the brain and the brainstem, leading to permanent hearing loss. MS patients may also experience temporary hearing loss during an acute episode.

Hearing loss has been reported to be one of the earliest symptoms of MS. Therefore, your healthcare provider should thoroughly evaluate any sign of hearing loss.

  • Ototoxic medications 

It is not only diseases and health conditions that can affect your hearing, but some of the medicines used to combat them. These are known as ototoxic medicines and may include the following:

  • Large amounts of anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Some chemotherapy drugs
  • Aminoglycoside antibiotics
  • Loop diuretics, like Lasix or ethacrynic acid

If you’re concerned about the effects of your medications on your hearing, talk with your GP about the medicines you take. 

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