By far the most common causes of hearing loss are age and noise. The names for these types of hearing loss are age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss, and in combination these two compose the bulk of cases of hearing loss overall. Most people experience hearing loss later in life, and so we come to expect that a person who has hearing loss will be older. Despite these tendencies and our related assumptions, hearing loss can occur at any time in the lifespan and for a number of reasons. Take, for instance, the causes of noise-induced hearing loss alone. Such surprising factors as teaching an elementary school class, working in a hair salon, and being a bartender can contribute to these types of noise exposure.
Aside from these unexpected causes of noise-induced hearing loss, there are even more unusual causes that do not have to do with noise exposure at all. Most of these other causes have to do with health comorbidities. In these cases, we know statistically that those who have physical conditions are more likely to have hearing loss, as well. The mechanism connecting these features may be known or unknown, but we do have a sense that these conditions are related. Let’s walk through a handful of these relationships, keeping in mind the rarity of these unique causes of hearing loss.
Shingles can be a very painful condition, and it tends to affect people aged 60 and over. In addition to the effects on other parts of the body, shingles can also lead to an additional condition called Ramsay Hunt syndrome. This shingles-related condition is a cause of hearing loss, and can even lead to severe loss in the affected ear. The good news is that timely treatment can prevent this loss from becoming permanent.
Hearing loss is twice as common among those who have diabetes than those who don’t, and many specialists believe the connection has to do with the levels of blood glucose that reach the ears. With proper management of blood sugars, it is possible to prevent some of these hearing-related effects.
Hypertension and other forms of cardiovascular disease have high comorbidities with hearing loss, as well. In these cases, specialists believe that the connection has to do with the lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, depriving the tiny hairlike cells of the inner ear, or stereocilia, from receiving what they need to continue functioning.
When a cancer patient receives chemotherapy treatments, these can include ototoxic chemicals that can do damage to hearing ability. Of course, the use of ototoxic chemicals as part of a regimen of cancer eradication can be necessary for treatment, but new combinations of chemotherapies have demonstrated lower risk of hearing loss as a result.
In contrast to the treatments of chemotherapy, one life-saving preventative technology can also cause hearing loss: your car’s airbags. When they are deployed, the pop of pressure release can be so loud that some lose hearing as a result. The latest airbag technology is seeking to understand a way to maintain protection while reducing the decibel level of that pressure release.
Treating Hearing Loss
Indeed, these rare causes of hearing loss come along with their own serious concerns for health, and there is little to be done in some cases to prevent the risk of hearing loss. However, there are behaviors you can pursue in the rest of life that are preventative against the most common causes of hearing loss: age-related loss and noise-induced loss.
In the first case, a healthy diet rich in antioxidants has been linked to prevention of hearing loss, and exercise is a winning pair with a heart-healthy diet. In the latter case, wearing hearing protection is a crucial way to limit the risk of hearing loss, and limiting the duration of use of earbuds and hearing aids promotes better hearing health, as well.
If you are concerned about your hearing ability, the first step is to schedule a hearing test with us. With a thorough diagnosis in hand, you can be sure that you are paired with the right form of treatment for your individual needs and active lifestyle.