On first inspection, hearing loss appears to be an individual condition that occurs independently of other health concerns. However, years of research have found that hearing loss can indeed be connected to other health ailments, as we will discuss in more detail below.

What conditions can cause hearing loss?

In some cases, hearing loss is a symptom rather than an isolated issue. The following health conditions have all been observed to cause hearing loss:

  • Ménière’s disease: Ménière’s disease causes excess fluid to build up in the ear, leading to hearing loss. Other symptoms include equilibrium issues, nausea and a feeling of fullness in one or both ears
  • Acoustic neuroma: Acoustic neuroma causes a non-malignant tumor to grow on the nerve that controls hearing and balance. Other symptoms include equilibrium issues, headaches and facial tingling or numbness
  • Mumps: Mumps is a viral infection that can sometimes cause damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. If this occurs, hearing loss is likely to be permanent. Symptoms of the condition, against which you can be vaccinated, include swollen glands, fever and headaches
  • Paget’s disease: Paget’s disease is relatively rare, but when present, causes an increase in bone resorption, followed by weaker, new bone formation. The condition is often asymptomatic, but pain and stiffness in the joints can sometimes present

In many cases, resolving the underlying condition can restore standard hearing functions. However, in some cases – such as mumps – the hearing loss itself will need to be treated with the use of hearing aids.

Can hearing loss lead to other conditions developing?

While hearing loss can act as a symptom, the condition can also develop in isolation – most commonly when the hair cells of the inner ear are damaged, either due to natural aging or noise exposure. Unfortunately, when hearing loss develops independently, it can also cause a number of health issues, including:

  • Dementia. The link between dementia and hearing loss has been confirmed in numerous studies; if an individual is experiencing untreated hearing loss, their possibility of developing dementia is much higher than found in the general population.
  • Higher risk of trips and falls, particularly for seniors. While trips and falls are not a health condition in and of themselves, they can be extremely problematic, potentially leading to severe injury. Individuals who are experiencing untreated hearing loss are at a far higher risk of trips and falls than the general populace.
  • Reduced speech recognition. Individuals experiencing untreated hearing loss may have difficulties recognizing speech patterns and particularly the letters T, S and P.

It is important to note that, in the cases above, the term untreated hearing loss is used; if hearing loss is treated with hearing aids, then the risk factors for developing these conditions can decrease dramatically. As a condition, hearing loss is not an island: it is frequently connected to numerous other health conditions, either as a symptom or a cause for other health issues. It is therefore important to ensure that, if you suspect you are experiencing hearing loss, you visit an audiologist for a test – and, if required, treatment – at the earliest convenience.