How often do you contemplate your nervous system? Most likely not all that regularly. Normally, you wouldn’t have to be concerned about how your neurons are communicating messages to the nerves of your body. But you tend to take a closer look when something fails and the nerves begin to misfire.
There’s one specific condition, known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, which can affect the nervous system on a fairly large scale, though the symptoms usually manifest chiefly in the extremities. And there’s some evidence to suggest that CMT can also cause high-frequency loss of hearing.
What Is Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease?
Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a set of inherited conditions. In essence, these genetic conditions cause something to go wrong with your nerves or with the protective sheathing surrounding your nerves.
This means that the signals sent from your brain to those nerves (and from those nerves back to your brain) don’t travel all that well. A loss of motor function and sensation can be the result.
A combination of genetic factors commonly results in the expression of symptoms, so CMT can be present in a number of varieties. Symptoms of CMT commonly start in the feet and go up to the arms. And, curiously, among those who have CMT, there is a higher rate of occurrence of high-frequency hearing loss.
The Cochlear Nerve: A Link Between CMT and Hearing Loss
The link between CMT and hearing loss has always been colloquially recognized (that is, everybody knows someone who has a story about it – at least within the CMT culture). And it seemed to confuse people who suffered from CMT – the ear didn’t seem all that related to the loss of sensation in the legs, for example.
The connection was firmly established by a scientific study just recently when a group of researchers examined 79 people with CMT at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
The findings were rather conclusive. Low to moderate frequencies were heard nearly perfectly by those who had CMT. But all of the people showed hearing loss when it came to the high-frequency sounds (usually around the moderate levels). Based on this research, it seems pretty likely that CMT can at least be associated with high-frequency hearing loss.
The Cause of Hearing Loss and How to Deal With It
The connection between high-frequency hearing loss and CMT may, at first, seem puzzling. But all of your body, from your toes to your eyebrows, relies on the proper functioning of nerves. Your ears are the same.
The theory is, CMT impacts the cochlear nerve so sounds in the high-frequency range aren’t able to be translated. Some sounds, including some voices, will be hard to hear. In particular, make out voices in crowded and noisy rooms can be a tangible obstacle.
This type of hearing loss is commonly managed with hearing aids. CMT has no known cure. Modern hearing aids can provide tremendous assistance in terms of fighting the effects of high-frequency hearing loss, selecting only those ranges of sounds to amplify. Additionally, most modern hearing aids can be adjusted to work well in noisy conditions.
There Could be Many Causes For Hearing Loss
Further than the untested hypothesis, it’s still not well understood what the connection between CMT and high-frequency hearing loss. But hearing aid tech provides an obvious treatment for the symptoms of that loss of hearing. That’s why countless people who have CMT will take the time to get a consultation with a hearing care specialist and get fitted for a custom hearing aid.
There are numerous causes for hearing loss symptoms. Often, it’s an issue of loud sound contributing to damage to the ears. In other situations, loss of hearing may be the result of an obstruction. It also looks like CMT is another possible cause.