Hearing loss doesn’t always have to be from noise. Exposure to high levels of sound over an extended period of time may be a leading cause, but there are many others. Aging, genetics, and head injury can all lead to hearing difficulty, as can autoimmune inner ear disease.
Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED) “occurs when the body’s immune system attacks cells in the inner ear.” These cells are often mistaken for a virus, bacteria, or foreign object. AIED is rare, but not unheard of.
Symptoms include progressive, sudden hearing loss over a period of a couple months. Hearing is often replaced by tinnitus, and dizziness and balance issues are not uncommon. Loss can start in one ear, then move to both. Although AIED can happen to anyone, a high incidence of cases are seen in people with Meniere’s disease, which is an inner ear disorder marked by “recurring episodes of vertigo.”
Diagnosis is often a challenge, as there are no specific tests. Underlying causes can include lupus, multiple sclerosis, and even gout, all autoimmune diseases that can relate to AIED. Treatment sometimes includes steroids and the use of hearing aids.
Always talk to your doctor and audiologist if you notice any increase in hearing difficulty.