What does kidney disease have to do with hearing loss?

Many of the things that damage the kidney also damage the cochlea. The glomerulus of the kidney and the stria vascularis of the cochlea are quite similar. They are often damaged by the same drugs, for example. High frequency sensorineural hearing loss is common in people with severe renal disease. Often, it is not possible to tell whether both were caused by the same etiology, or whether hearing loss is secondary to the renal disease and its treatment.

 Do cancers cause hearing loss?

Cancers that involve the ear and the brain can cause hearing loss, of course. However, cancers elsewhere may also be related, particularly because many of the treatments for cancer produce hearing loss. Chemotherapy agents are often ototoxic. Radiation may also cause hearing loss if the ear is included in the radiation field. Patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy should have an audiogram before treatment is begun, and usually during and after treatment.

 Is there a relationship between glaucoma and hearing loss?

The relationship has been controversial, but it is probable that there is significantly increased incidence of hearing loss in patients with glaucoma. The association is especially prominent in patients with narrow angle glaucoma.

 Does sickle cell disease have anything to do with hearing problems?

About 7 to 9 percent of black Americans carry the sickle cell trait. About 1 in 400 has sickle cell disease, and 20 to 25 percent of patients with sickle cell disease have sensorineural hearing loss. Sudden deafness has also been reported in conjunction with sickle cell crisis. Remarkably, in some cases even total deafness resolves after the crisis is over.

 Do thyroid problems have anything to do with hearing?

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is common. About 50 percent of patients with low thyroid function, severe enough to cause myxedema (a special kind of swelling), have hearing losses. Moreover, about 3 percent of patients with Ménière's syndrome have hypothyroidism; and in some, control of the thyroid disease eliminates the Ménière's syndrome symptoms.

Does Diabetes affect hearing?

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in the United States. Although estimates vary from study to study, it appears that about 40 percent of diabetics have hearing loss. It is usually sensorineural, progressive, bilateral (both ears), and most severe in the high frequencies. However, Ménière's syndrome may also be caused by diabetes, and sudden deafness has been reported. In general, diabetic hearing loss is felt to be caused by the same kind of microvascular changes that cause diabetic eye disease.

 Is there an association between fainting and hearing loss?

There is a very important condition called Jervell and Lange-Nielson syndrome. It is a hereditary condition that accounts for approximately 1 percent of all cases of hereditary deafness. It is characterized by sensorineural hearing loss (often severe) and fainting. Whenever this association exists, an electrocardiogram should be obtained immediately. The fainting is due to heart arrhythmias that may cause sudden death. Diagnosis and placement of a pacemaker may be life saving.

Are there other hereditary diseases and syndromes that cause hearing loss?

There are literally entire books on hereditary syndromes and hearing loss. The syndromes involve defects in virtually any part of the body.