5 Uncommon Causes of Hearing Loss

Curious about what could be hurting your hearing?



There are more than just a few common causes of hearing loss. Loud noises, aging, ear infections and injuries to the ear all top the list.

But what about hearing loss that’s not from one of those well-known causes? This is the case for Chasing the Cure’s 13-year-old Frankie who woke up one day unable to hear out of her left ear.

Frankie's story was first featured on Episode Three of Chasing the Cure

Over 360 million people in the world suffer from debilitating hearing loss, which can be caused by some surprising things. Let’s have a look at what those conditions are in case you or someone you know experienced unexplained hearing loss like Frankie. These scenarios could offer you tools to have better conversations with your doctor.


Any condition that causes stress in the body (obesity, high blood pressure, anxiety) will likely impair your circulation. Compromised circulation can lead to hearing loss. Tinnitus (ringing or pulsing in the ear) is a common complaint from people who are stressed as well.
The cilia in the ear — the small, sensory hairs inside the ear canal — aid in hearing, and depend on good blood flow to transmit sound to the inner ear. When circulation is compromised, hearing can be compromised, too.

Seasonal Allergies

Allergens in the air change throughout the year, but year-round, the most common complaints related to seasonal allergies are ear, nose and throat problems.
When our bodies face substances, like pollen, that cause an allergic reaction, inflammation occurs. This means inflammation in your ears can be related to seasonal allergies and even hearing loss. The eustachian tube, which connects the inner ear and nose to the back of the throat, commonly becomes inflamed during allergy flare-ups and can inhibit hearing.

The Common Cold

It's not uncommon to wait out a cold and treat it with over-the-counter medications. However, the common cold can lead to hearing loss. Ear congestion can quickly turn into an ear infection if it's allowed to linger for too long.
Be sure to see a doctor if you've had ear pain for more than a few days or experience a discharge from the ear. Untreated inflammation can cause scarring on the eardrum and damage the cilia in the ear, leading to permanent hearing loss. 


While the connection isn't precisely known, the American Diabetes Association reports that of the 84 million pre-diabetic adults in the U.S., the instance of hearing loss in those adults is 30 percent higher than in non-diabetic populations.

High blood sugar can cause damage to the blood vessels in the ear and damage neurons in the body, causing hearing loss.

Smoking (and vaping)

A bad habit can be a significant culprit for unexplained hearing loss. Smokers are 60 percent more likely to develop hearing loss than non-smokers.

The nicotine in cigarettes (and vaping) can cause damage to the neurotransmitters that transmit sound information from the ear to the brain. Smoking also causes irritation in the middle ear, which can lead to hearing loss.

If you have unexplained hearing loss, it’s easy to overlook conditions that might not be directly related to the ear or an injury. However, these five conditions above can definitely lend to hearing loss and might be worth discussing with your doctor if you find your hearing impaired.

E. Napoletano is an award-winning journalist and the recipient of the 2019 Illinois Women’s Press Association first-place prize for her feature on the traumatic effects of family separation policies at the border.