When you think of the causes of hearing loss, you probably consider old age and excessive noise exposure. But did you know that certain infections can also lead to hearing loss? We review some of these infections and how they’re linked to hearing problems below.
The most common illness that can lead to hearing loss is the common cold. Most commonly caused by exposure to rhinoviruses, the cold can cause hearing loss by initiating an inflammatory response. During this response, the Eustachian tubes – which connect the middle ear to the throat and allow fluids to drain – become blocked, causing mucus to build up behind the eardrum. This can lead to a secondary bacterial infection and can cause muffled hearing until the infection has cleared.
Though not common, COVID-19 has been associated with ear problems such as hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and vertigo (spinning sensation) in numerous studies. More commonly, it is a late symptom of the coronavirus rather than an early symptom. In fact, one systematic review found that among those who have had COVID-19, 7.6% experience hearing loss, 14.8% experience tinnitus and 7.2% experience vertigo.
Mumps is one of many childhood viral infections that can lead to hearing loss. Though experts aren’t exactly sure how mumps causes hearing loss, it is thought that the virus affects the stereocilia, which are the sensory cells that convert soundwaves into electrical energy the brain interprets as sound. Sensorineural hearing loss is the result.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal caused by water remaining in the ear, which creates an environment where bacteria can grow. In addition to itchy ear, redness, drainage, pain, feeling of fullness and fever, hearing loss can be a symptom.
Labyrinthitis is a term that describes widespread inflammation of the inner ear that can cause hearing loss, tinnitus and intense vertigo. While the cause is usually unknown, it is sometimes caused by a reactivation of a dormant virus like chickenpox.
For more information or to schedule an appointment for a hearing test, call Hill Country Audiology today.