Not all hearing loss is the same. There are many different causes and symptoms of hearing loss. That’s why it is important to get checked out if you are experiencing any difficulty in hearing whatsoever.
Difficulty hearing in noisy places is often one of the first real signs of hearing loss. As you age, you may develop gradual hearing loss (presbycusis) which is caused by the death of the tiny hair cells in your inner ear. Exposure to loud noises increases your chance of developing presbycusis.
Once the hair cells within your inner ear die, they do not regenerate. While you can’t repair damaged cells, you can prevent further hearing loss by limiting your exposure to loud noises. Any sound above 85 decibels puts your hearing at risk. Most conversations occur between 40 and 60 decibels.
People with kidney or heart disease are at a higher risk of developing presbycusis. Researchers believe that poor kidney function leads to the accumulation of toxins that can damage nerves in the inner ear and that cardiovascular disease can decrease blood flow to the inner ear.
Experiencing fullness in the ear can be something as simple as an ear infection or allergy caused by excessive mucus. A buildup of earwax can also cause a feeling of fullness.
If your fullness is caused by an infection or allergy, you doctor can prescribe antibiotics, ear drops or an antihistamine, which will decrease the inflammation responsible for the feeling of fullness. If you have a building up of earwax, it is advisable to have a doctor remove it rather than trying to remove it yourself.
If your fullness is accompanied by significant pain, you could have Swimmer’s Ear, an infection of the ear canal. This is usually caused by water in the ear, which breaks down the skin and provides a breeding ground for bacteria. Swimmer’s Ear is typically treated with ear drops than contain an antibiotic.
If you have a virus or ear infection, it can cause swelling or fluid buildup that affects hair cells and nerves and results in sudden loss of hearing. Taking high doses of certain medications such as aspirin, IV antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs and diuretics can also have a similar effect.
If you have sudden hearing loss, it’s important to see a specialist and get an audiogram immediately. If an audiogram shows nerve injury, hearing can be recovered if steroids are given within 72 hours of the onset of hearing loss. Steroids reduce inflammation and prevent swelling of the auditory nerve which, if left untreated, can cause permanent hearing loss.
In rare cases, sudden hearing loss can also be a sign of a tumor pressing on the auditory nerve. Other uncommon causes include Syphilis, Lyme Disease, autoimmune disorders and thyroid disease.
If you have fluctuating hearing loss and it is accompanied by dizziness, nausea or trouble balancing, you may have Meniere’s Disease, a condition that affects 1 in 500 Americans.
While Meniere’s Disease cannot be cured, it can be treated with a low sodium diet and a prescribe diuretic to reduce fluid in the inner ear.
Dizziness accompanied by fluctuating hearing loss can also signal other medical conditions related to blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, dehydration and anxiety.