Causes of Hearing Loss Unrelated to Aging

There are numerous things that can contribute to a decrease in hearing. As people age, it is not uncommon to experience some degree of graduated loss due to deterioration of the inner ear. However, the loss might be due to a different reason entirely.

An interruption in, or insufficient blood flow to the ear or the part of the brain that controls hearing can cause hearing loss. Conditions that can cause this include elevated blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. It can also occur in people with hypercoagulability and polycythemia. People with arthritis commonly have loss. It is thought that this occurs due to the abnormalities in blood vessels that this disease causes.

Common childhood illnesses can cause a loss of hearing. Mumps is the most common cause of deafness in one ear. In these cases, people are often unaware of their hearing impairment until later in life. Scarlet fever can cause a loss of hearing by damaging or destroying the eardrum and damaging the middle ear bones. Chicken pox, if the mother contracts it while she is pregnant, can cause a loss of hearing in unborn infants.

Many different types of infection can result in loss. Syphilis, if undiscovered and left untreated, can result in severe hearing loss. This disease sometimes goes undiagnosed for many, many years before symptoms appear and it is diagnosed and treated. Lyme disease is another disease that can linger for years before it is accurately diagnosed. This is an increasingly common disease that is spread by tick bites. It often goes undiagnosed because symptoms are minor, such as rashes or joint pain that comes and goes. In addition, in the later stages, it mimics other diseases or disorders such as fibromyalgia and muscular dystrophy. This makes it even harder to diagnose and, by that time that it is, some degree of the resulting hearing loss may be permanent.

Approximately 40 percent of individuals with diabetes experience loss, often in both ears. It is thought that this is due to damage to blood vessels and the nerves of the inner ear from high blood sugar levels.

This can can be genetic. In some families, the parents may have no loss but carry the gene and pass it on to their children. In those cases, the loss tends to be present in one out of every four children.

There are drugs that are known to be ototoxic, meaning they have the potential to damage the auditory system and cause hearing loss. Examples include some types of antibiotics, chemotherapies, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Generally, those drugs must be administered intravenously in high doses before an individual will experience the side effect of hearing loss. The hearing loss may be temporary and disappear when the drugs are stopped, or the loss may be permanent.

Because of the wide range of medical conditions that can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, older individuals should always obtain a medical exam from a physician to determine the cause. The physician will then be in a position to treat or prescribe devices, such as hearing aids, that can help restore some or all of an individual’s hearing capabilities. Hearing aids can help restore hearing to approximately 80 percent of individuals diagnosed with hearing problems.