Do You Have Allergies?
The watery eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat, wheezing, and sneezing of seasonal and indoor allergies aren’t the only problems they can cause. Allergies can also cause hearing loss.
A group of researchers analyzed the medical histories of patients aged 31 to 62 who had a condition called sudden sensorineural auditory loss. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is a condition of sudden deafness. It commonly presents itself as waking up in the morning deaf in, usually, one or, sometimes, both ears. The researchers found that a strong majority of people who had sudden sensorineural hearing loss had a history of allergies.
Researchers in China have found a link between allergies and a condition called Ménière’s disease. This disease causes auditory loss along with balance issues, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and strange and unpleasant sensations in the ears.
And there are many other ways that allergies can affect your hearing less drastically:
- Some people are allergic to nickel plating in ear studs. The resulting swelling can block the ear canal and interfere with hearing.
- Allergies in the ear canal can lead to a buildup of mucus. The clogged canal fails to transmit sound to the inner ear.
- And allergies can make the effects of other ear conditions worse.
The most common way allergies interfere with hearing is conductive auditory loss. The transmission of sound is blocked on its path from the outer ear to the middle ear and middle ear, so it never stimulates the undulating cilia that translate sound into electrical signals to send to the brain.
This kind of hearing loss isn’t hard to understand. Allergies create fluid that blocks the Eustachian tube. You feel stuffiness and you can’t hear as well. The fluid buildup resulting from allergy provides a breeding ground for the strep bacteria that cause ear infections, complicating the underlying problem. (It’s not enough to treat the ear infection without also treating the allergy that causes the predisposition to it.)
Sudden sensorineural auditory loss is not due to an “allergy” but rather, scientists think, due to a similar but slower process in the immune system. Slower-acting antibodies attack the nerves between the ear and the brain. While the symptoms may appear suddenly, the process that causes them is much, much slower than a more familiar allergic reaction.
So, What Can be Done About Hearing Loss Caused by Allergies?
First of all, you need a hearing professional to rule in or rule out allergy as part of the problem that is causing your hearing loss. Most ear allergies cause hearing loss, but not all hearing loss is due to allergies. If allergy is creating the conditions for auditory loss related to a secondary condition, both conditions have to be treated.
Then, if your audiologist confirms that allergy is the problem that is causing your auditory loss, you need to get the allergy under control.
- You need to get tested to find out what it is that you are allergic to. Then you need to avoid it. Sometimes the allergy control measures you need aren’t immediately obvious. If you are allergic to grass pollen, for instance, you may need to be sure to close your windows at night, because grass pollinates a few hours before sunrise. Or if you are allergic to animal dander, you may not need to give up Fluffy or Fido, but you may need to groom your pet and vacuum your home more often.
- If your ear allergy is complicated by an ear infection, it’s important to avoid antibiotics (such as ampicillin, azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, and tetracyclines) that can cause hearing loss.
- It’s important for your auditory specialist to take care in prescribing your hearing aids. Poor fit can trap allergens on your outer ear and in your ear canal. A bad fit can cause fluid to accumulate in your ear, or wax to accumulate in the canal. it’s also possible to be allergic to the plastics that used to form the outer mold of your hearing aid. but manufacturers offer alternative materials.
- If you wear hearing aids, it’s important to clean them regularly. Allergens can cling to surfaces in your auditory aids that keep them in constant contact with your ear.
Get Help with Your Hearing Loss Today
You don’t have to live with auditory loss. Harbor Audiology can help. Our staff can help you with your questions about insurance or VA benefits, and we have office hours most evenings and Saturdays. Harbor Audiology serves Sequim, Silverdale, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Port Angeles, and Bainbridge Island. Request your appointment online today!