Most people think hearing loss is simply caused by aging, but in fact, there are many other medical conditions that can have an effect on your hearing. Certain health conditions or disorders may either be a cause or symptom of deafness or be a condition for which you may be at an increased risk for hearing loss problems. Below you’ll find a list of several common medical conditions that can lead to hearing loss, and we explain the various causes and treatments available.
NOTE: This is an overview and not an exhaustive list. Please consult your doctor or hearing care specialist 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 eleven 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.