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10 Medical Conditions That Can Cause a Hearing Loss

Cause a Hearing Loss

The ongoing exposure to loud noises has long been a front of mind for anyone concerned about hearing loss. And with good reason, considering that noise exposure is the number one cause of acquired hearing loss. 

Loud noise accounts for just over a quarter of hearing impairments in adults, closely followed by age-related hearing loss, which affects about 30 out of 100 adults above the age of 65. 

But what about the remaining cases of acquired hearing loss? 

The Most Common Causes of Hearing Loss 

Your hearing organs are delicate, and hearing impairments can occur if any of them is damaged. It’s a chain reaction with cumulative effects on your ability to hear. 

Your inner ear (cochlea) is especially prone to suffering from irreversible damage. 

The cochlea contains fine hair and nerve cells that send sound signals to your brain. As vital as these cells are to your hearing, they’re also very fragile. Worse than that, once damaged, these cells can not be repaired. 

Besides loud noise and the very natural effects of ageing, some diseases, bacterial infections and viruses, particularly when accompanied by high fevers, pose a threat to these hair cells. 

Medical Conditions

10 Medical Conditions That Put Your Hearing at Risk 

  • Diabetes
  • Acoustic Neuroma 
  • Bacterial Meningitis 
  • Cholesteatoma 
  • Ear infections 
  • Ménière’s disease
  • Osteoporosis 
  • Otosclerosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Sexually transmitted diseases 
  • Diabetes

Did you know that diabetics are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss than people with normal blood sugar levels? 

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that makes it difficult for your body to maintain healthy levels of blood glucose.

High blood glucose levels are dangerous in many ways. Concerning your hearing, it’s the irreversible damage caused to small blood vessels that are concerning. 

Your inner ear is full of tiny arteries and veins that supply your cochlea with blood and facilitate proper sound transmission. 

Low blood sugar levels are equally problematic. Over time, they may damage the auditory nerves responsible for carrying signals from the inner ear to your brain. 

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s very important to have your hearing checked at least once a year and keep on top of your medication and treatment plans.

  • Bacterial Meningitis 

Bacterial meningitis is among the most common medical causes of acquired hearing loss. Up to 35 per cent of patients with bacterial meningitis develop permanent hearing loss in one or both ears. 

Meningitis is a serious inflammation of the brain and spinal cord fluids caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

Meningitis is generally accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as severe headaches, sudden high fevers and a stiff neck, caused by the spreading of bacteria and viruses in the body via the bloodstream and nerve endings. 

This also explains why patients with meningitis are likely to experience hearing problems: If an infection spreads to the inner ear, it can wreak havoc on fragile 

hair cells and auditory nerves. 

  • Ear infections 

Ear infections may be the least surprising out of all the medical causes of hearing loss – at least of those listed in this article. 

If a middle ear infection is left untreated, fluid accumulates on the eardrum. At first, this may lead to a temporary hearing loss that will subside with the infection itself.

But, if the infection does not improve and liquid keeps building up pressure, the eardrum can – and will – eventually burst. 

Depending on the diagnosis, a ruptured eardrum may be surgically repaired, but some continued hearing loss will likely remain.

  • Osteoporosis 

Osteoporosis drastically increases your risk of developing a permanent hearing loss. People with Osteoporosis are nearly 76 per cent more likely to develop sudden hearing loss, with women being most affected. 

Osteoporosis is a chronic disease where bones become thin and fragile, such that even a minor accident can cause a broken bone.

But how exactly can Osteoporosis cause hearing loss? It’s quite simple: Your ear contains many tiny bones, also called auditory ossicles, responsible for amplifying and moving soundwaves through the ear.

Since these small bones play a major role in sound processing, any amount of instability and deterioration can interfere with the hearing process. 

  • Multiple Sclerosis

Hearing loss has been reported as one of the earliest symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). About 6 per cent of people diagnosed with MS will experience impaired hearing at some point, albeit rarely severe or even permanent.  

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that interferes with nerve impulses within the brain and spinal cord and causes permanent nerve damage.

In MS, hearing loss is often attributed to the damage of nerve pathways in the brain and the brainstem.

In most cases, MS patients experience hearing loss between relapses or remissions, and symptoms often subside after the episode is over.

  • Acoustic Neuroma 

An Acoustic Neuroma is a non-cancerous tumour that sits on the auditory or vestibular nerves leading from your inner ear to the brain.

Acoustic tumours may be benign, but the pressure they can put on nerves in the ear can cause hearing loss and a ringing in the affected ear (tinnitus) and imbalance issues. 

As an Acoustic Neuroma grows and begins to press on the surrounding tissues, these effects may worsen. The good news is that Acoustic Neuromas are often slow-growing and can, in many cases, be surgically removed. 

However, some loss of hearing may remain even after successful surgical removal of the tumour. 

  • Cholesteatoma 

A Cholesteatoma is an abnormal skin growth or a skin cyst that appears in the middle ear, on the eardrum or in an eardrum retraction pocket.

Cholesteatomas can form in many ways; you may unknowingly be born with one 

or develop one due to chronic ear infections and Eustachian tube dysfunctions

As the cyst grows, it is likely to cause an infection that can spread to the area behind the eardrum, causing impaired hearing, dizziness or vertigo, and a sensation of ear fullness and, in some cases, facial muscle weakness on the side of the infected ear.

Cholesteatomas are usually very manageable. In most cases, cysts are surgically removed by an ENT specialist. Sometimes, they will also prescribe medications to stop the drainage and contain the inflammation. 

  • Ménière’s disease

Ménière’s disease is a progressive inner ear disorder that stems from abnormal fluid fluctuations in the inner ear and disrupts both your hearing and balance systems.

Ménière’s disease is characterised by an overabundance of fluid that fills the inner ear and causes symptoms such as hearing loss, Tinnitus and frequent spells of spinning sensation (vertigo) alongside dizziness, disabling nausea or vomiting.

There is, unfortunately, no cure for Ménière’s Disease. Common treatments merely aim to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms and include anti-nausea and motion-sickness medications.

Otosclerosis

  • Otosclerosis

Otosclerosis is a rare hereditary condition that causes abnormal bone growth within the middle ear. Left untreated, it can lead to progressive hearing loss.

Otosclerosis often runs in families, with women being more likely to develop otosclerosis than men, particularly after a pregnancy. Hearing loss caused by the condition tends to occur between 11 and 30.

Patients diagnosed with the condition often also suffer from tinnitus and dizziness. If detected early, a hearing aid may suffice. Although it cannot cure Otosclerosis, it may improve the hearing loss you experience due to it. 

Alternatively, the bone growth may be surgically removed in a procedure called stapedectomy. 

  • Sexually transmitted diseases 

A rare cause of hearing loss, but an explanation nonetheless: STDs such as herpes, syphilis and HIV can be accompanied by hearing loss symptoms. 

Otosyphilis, for example, is a rare complication of syphilis. It is also one of the few sudden hearing loss conditions that are reversible.

STD-introduced hearing loss is very treatable, especially if caught early, and is important for clinicians to consider.

When do You Need to See an Audiologist? 

If you suspect any of the above-mentioned conditions may affect your hearing, it is worth taking the time out of your day for a comprehensive hearing test.

To have your hearing checked at your nearest Attune Hearing clinic, book a hearing test online or contact us on 1300 736 702.

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