Philadelphia Ear, Nose and Throat Associates: PENTA

Conditions Outside Ear

 Are there conditions outside the ear that may cause hearing loss?

A great number of other problems can cause hearing loss, particularly sensorineural hearing loss, and many of them are very common conditions, and that most people (including physicians) are not aware of their association with hearing loss.

Can common childhood infections cause hearing loss?

Mumps is the most common cause of one-sided total deafness in the United States. Frequently, the child and family are not aware of the hearing loss until years later. Usually, the balance system is normal. Other childhood infections may also affect hearing, particularly by destroying the eardrum and damaging the middle ear bones. Scarlet fever is notorious for creating such problems.

What other special infections are known to cause hearing loss?

There are many. Syphilis is among the most important. Commonly, it has been acquired either at birth, or a long time before hearing symptoms occur (20, 30 or more years). It is especially important because it is a treatable, and sometimes curable, form of sensorineural hearing loss. It may present as Ménière’s syndrome, sudden deafness, or sensorineural hearing loss of any pattern (typically slightly asymmetric with somewhat poor discrimination). Routine syphilis tests, such as those obtained for marriage licenses, are generally normal; but special tests for latent syphilis are positive. The disease is not contagious at that stage; but if it is not recognized and treated, the hearing loss may progress and even become total.

Lyme disease can cause similar problems. this increasingly common infection is caused by a spirochete (as is syphilis) carried most commonly by ticks. Lyme disease often causes a rash and joint pain; but these may be minor enough to escape notice. Appropriate blood tests should be obtained for people with sensorineural hearing loss of unknown origin, and for patients with other unexplained nerve problems, such as facial paralysis.

Numerous other systemic infections including herpes, cytomegalovirus (CMV), measles, mononucleosis, varicella, mycoplasma, influenza, and fungal diseases may cause hearing problems as well.

Can vascular problems affect hearing loss?

Much sensorineural hearing loss is believed to be due to vascular insufficiency involving either the inner ear or related areas of the brain. This situation is encountered with generalized cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and other similar conditions. It may also be present with hypercoagulable states, in which the blood tends to sludge and clot excessively. Polycythemia, a condition in which there are too many blood cells, is one example.

Does Meningitis cause hearing problems?

Hearing loss is one of the most common consequences of meningitis, especially bacterial or fungal meningitis. Anyone who has had meningitis should have a hearing test upon recovery.

Does AIDS cause hearing loss?

AIDS is associated with ear infections and neurological damage. Conductive and sensorineural hearing loss both occur in association with AIDS. AIDS is also associated with tumors in the head and neck that can cause hearing loss.

Can Tuberculosis cause hearing loss?

Tuberculosis and other granulomatous conditions such as sarcoidosis and Wegener’s granulomatosis, now referred to as granulomatosis with polyangiitis, have all been associated with hearing loss. The problem may be due to the disease itself, or to the medications used to treat the disease (such as streptomycin). Tuberculosis is increasingly common, especially among AIDS patients and those who come in contact with them.