More often than not, physical ailments are not isolated: They arise in pairs. When one part of our body is impacted, it’s likely that another part of our body will be impacted as well. Likewise, the medications we take to treat our ailments can be as detrimental as the ailments themselves.
In recent years, research has suggested that there may be a connection between arthritis and hearing loss. Let’s explore these two health concerns, how they may be connected, and what can be done about it.
What is arthritis?
If you have arthritis, you are one of the many: The Arthritis Foundation notes that, in the U.S. alone, over 50 million adults and 300,000 children have been diagnosed. Arthritis is difficult to define, but is often described as the ‘joint disease’ because it attacks the joints. Symptoms of arthritis can include: chronic pain, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty moving a joint.
Over 100 forms of arthritis exist, making it difficult to diagnose and fully understand. Although the most common forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, both involve joint inflammation, their causes are very different. Osteoarthritis is caused by physical ‘wear and tear,’ while rheumatoid arthritis is a mysterious autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints.
Some treatment options are available for arthritis. However, because so little is understood about what causes the disease, a cure has yet to be identified. Generally speaking, to prevent or reduce the symptoms of arthritis, health practitioners recommend maintaining a healthy weight, eating a well-balanced diet, and avoiding alcohol or cigarette smoking.
Can arthritis lead to hearing loss?
While the link is uncertain, researchers have found that being diagnosed with arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis (RA), may be a risk factor for hearing loss. As noted, RA occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its joints. RA is most commonly associated with sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs when the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged.
In 2016, a study exploring this relationship was published in The Rheumatology Journal. The researchers conducted an extensive review of pre-existing data and found that individuals with RA were more likely to be diagnosed with hearing loss, as compared to those without RA. Moreover, those with RA who smoked, drank alcohol, or were exposed to dangerous sound levels had an even greater likelihood of experiencing hearing loss.
A study published by The Mediterranean Society of Otology and Audiology in 2006 explored what types of hearing loss were most evident in individuals with RA. By comparing the hearing loss in 44 individuals with RA to 44 in a control group, 27.3% of the individuals with RA were found to have sensorineural hearing loss, as compared to only 15.9% of controls.
In contrast, a study published in the Laryngoscope in 2009 revealed opposing results. By comparing 29 individuals with RA to a control group of 30 individuals, the researchers found that while individuals with RA were more likely to think they had hearing loss, there was no significant difference between their hearing loss levels and those in the control group.
The inconsistency in research raises questions about whether the true cause of the hearing loss associated with RA is actually from RA, or if it is caused by associated factors, like medication.
What can I do about hearing loss?
While there is no existing cure for arthritis, there is hope for your hearing loss. Hearing loss resulting from rheumatoid arthritis, like sensorineural hearing loss, can easily be treated with hearing aids.
To start your journey to improved hearing, contact us now.
To learn more about hearing loss and how to cope, read the following: