One of the major causes of hearing loss in adults is aging and we all lose some of our hearing as we age.
But, did you know that you can lose your hearing because of genes as well? Yes, as surprising that may sound, the causes of hearing loss goes beyond aging.
In this post, let’s talk about the different causes of hearing loss, as well as the different types and treatments.
Let’s start with ailments that can cause a person to lose the ability to hear.
7 Causes of Hearing Loss
Otosclerosis is characterized by the abnormal growth of been of the middle ear. It makes it hard for the tiny bones in the middle ear to function and it prevents ear structures to function properly. People who suffer from otosclerosis may experience severe hearing loss.
Otosclerosis usually causes a type of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss, and less frequently sensorineural hearing loss. The type of hearing loss that stem from otosclerosis largely depends on which part of the inner ear is affected.
Usually, the condition affects the last bone in the chain of the hearing process called stapes. This bone is found in the entrance to the inner ear. Otosclerosis makes the abnormal bone to fixate the stapes in the entrance, causing interference with the incoming sound waves to the inner ear.
What causes otosclerosis?
It’s not fully clear what causes otosclerosis in humans. Although, there is scientific evidence that suggests hereditary factors. Research reveals that this condition tends to run in families or passed down from parent to child. A person who presents a family history of otosclerosis is more likely to develop the disorder later in life. Statistically speaking, a person who has one parent with this condition carries a 25 percent chance of developing otosclerosis. Which means, if both parents have it, their offspring is at risk by up to 50 percent.
In addition, otosclerosis is the most common cause of middle ear hearing problems among young adults. Typically, the symptoms show in early to middle adulthood. It is most common in women than in men and middle-aged women are most at risk. It’s also important to note that this condition can affect one ear or both ears.
Although otosclerosis is usually hereditary, there have been isolated cases. Measles and hormonal changes due to pregnancy have been linked to this condition.
What is the treatment of otosclerosis?
People who suffer from otosclerosis may seek surgery. The process involves removing the abnormal bone growth and inserting a tiny implant called stapedotomy or replacing the entire stapes with a small prosthesis called stapedectomy. These surgical procedures are relatively simple and widely performed. Stapedotomy or stapedectomy can both restore hearing.
For people who do not wish to undergo surgery, or may have other illnesses that will prevent them from having open surgery, hearing aids will help. However, hearing aids will not cure deafness and because hearing loss is progressive, powerful hearing aids might be needed as time goes by.
2. Ménière’s disease
Ménière’s disease affects the inner ear and often causes sensorineural hearing loss. Its symptoms include severe dizziness (vertigo), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and a feeling of fullness or ear congestion. This condition typically affects only one ear.
A person who suffers from Ménière’s disease may experience sudden attacks of dizziness following a short period of tinnitus or muffled sounds. Some people may have single attacks of dizziness separated by long periods of time, while others will have shorter breaks between attacks. This illness comes with extreme vertigo. The attacks are extreme, people who suffer from it tend to lose their balance and fall (also called “drop attacks”).
Aside from extreme vertigo, you may also have Ménière’s disease if you experience sensitivity to loud sounds. If you also notice hearing loss that comes and go, seek medical attention immediately because the loss of hearing has a chance to become permanent.
What causes Ménière’s disease?
Like otosclerosis, the exact cause of Ménière’s disease is still unclear. But, scientific studies point to a few things. First, some researchers believe that it is the result of constrictions in blood vessels that is the similar cause of migraine headaches.
Others believe that it could be a result of autoimmune reactions, viral infections, or allergies. Research also shows that since Ménière’s disease appears to run in families, it could be the byproduct of genetic mutations that result in abnormalities in the amount of endolymph fluid, one of the three fluids found in the cochlea.
What is the treatment for Ménière’s disease?
There is no cure for Ménière’s disease yet. However, there are treatments that your doctor might recommend to alleviate the symptoms. The treatments are as follow:
- Prescription drugs. meclizine, diazepam, glycopyrrolate, and lorazepam are some of the medications that can help manage dizziness and shorten attacks.
- Limiting dietary salt and taking diuretics. Water pills can help reduce body fluids that subsequently lower fluid volume and ear pressure.
- Cognitive therapy. Talk therapy helps people cope better with the unexpected attacks and reduce the anxiety of future attacks.
- Antibiotic gentamicin. Injecting antibiotic gentamicin into the middle ear has been proven to reduce vertigo but there’s a risk of hearing loss because this medication may destroy the important hair cells in the ear. There are doctors who would recommend corticosteroid instead because it’s more gentle.
- Surgery. When all non-invasive treatments fail to relieve the symptoms of Ménière’s disease, surgery may be recommended.
3. Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease
If you suddenly lose your hearing, an autoimmune disorder is a possible cause. An autoimmune disease happens fast and it’s where your body attacks itself. Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease (AIED) is a rare disease and it can cause dizziness, ringing in your ears, and hearing loss. According to WebMD.com, less than 1% of Americans are diagnosed with AIED. Middle-aged women are most at risk.
What causes AIED?
AIED is a type of autoimmune reaction. It happens when your immune cells mistakenly attack your healthy cells (in this case, the cells in your ear) for a virus or bacteria.
Other parts of your body may become affected as well. According to research, under 30% of people who suffer from AEID are experiencing another autoimmune disease that affects their entire body. Examples are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma.
What is the treatment for AEID?
If you have been diagnosed with AIED, your doctor will probably prescribe you an anti-inflammatory drug. High doses of steroids have been proven to work well for AIED patients, but it comes with many side effects.
Typically, you won’t take them for more than a few weeks. After you’ve finished your steroids sessions, your doctor may prescribe drugs that are used for chemotherapy to help slow down your immune system. These include methotrexate and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan).
4. Ototoxic Medications
There are some medications that can affect your hearing in the long term. These are called ototoxic drugs. Always consult with your doctor about the medicines you take. Some medicines that affect hearing loss include the following:
- Aminoglycoside antibiotics, such as streptomycin, neomycin, or kanamycin
- Large amounts of aspirin
- Loop diuretics, like lasix or ethacrynic acid
- Some chemotherapy drugs
5. Loud noises
Another cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise. For example, the kind of noise experienced in the workplace. Listening to loud music on your smartphone or going to a loud concert can damage your hearing.
Age-related hearing loss is usually caused by noise over your lifetime. It’s also caused by a genetic predisposition towards having hearing loss that can just become accumulated with the noise to create damage.
6. Physical injury
A traumatic brain injury (TBI), a hole in the eardrum, and damage to the middle caused by trauma can also cause hearing loss.
Presbycusis is a type of sensorineural hearing loss that occurs as you age. You’ll notice that speech may start to sound muffled or like they’re mumbling even if they’re not. You may need to ask people to repeat themselves to a get a clear grasp of what they’re saying or turn the TV or music louder to hear it.
The hearing should be evaluated at least every five years, even when you’re younger. And then every two to three years as you get older when you’re in your 50s.
Basically, every two to three years is a good thing to start evaluating your hearing. Just because you never know when it’s going to sneak up on you and it’s good to have a baseline.
Hearing loss happens very gradually. So, the first sign of hearing loss is usually a friend or a family member, sitting you down and saying hey, I think you may have a problem. You may have friends and family telling you about your hearing loss before you notice it.
Other signs of hearing loss include feeling like you don’t even want to go to the party, you don’t want to go to restaurants, and you’d rather stay home. You may even find yourself saying no to some of those social occasions.
And some other obvious signs of hearing loss include any pain, pressure, fullness in your ear. And those are very important things to consider about hearing loss as well.
And finally, if you hear any ringing or buzzing or hissing sounds in your ear, that’s something to keep in mind as a sign of hearing loss.
So, if you have any of the symptoms that was mentioned, or any family member or friend has pulled you aside and said hey, I don’t think you’re hearing well, don’t wait. Get your hearing checked today.