Arthritis doesn’t only affect your joints. In fact, it is associated with a wide range of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, sleep problems, kidney and lung diseases, etc. Among arthritis comorbidities (occurrence of two chronic diseases at once) there is also a hearing loss according to scientists. This article will discuss the link between hearing loss and arthritis. Are you at risk?
Hearing loss and rheumatoid arthritis
According to Arthritis Foundation, several studies have linked hearing loss with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and some other types of arthritis including psoriatic, Sjogren’s syndrome, etc. Clinical trials have found higher rates of sensorineural hearing loss in patients with RA. Sensorineural hearing loss is a type of hearing loss caused by the poor function of the hair cells in the cochlea. The official website of Arthritis Foundation also mentions a study published in 2006, which detected sensorineural hearing impairment in 42.7% of patients with RA.
On the other hand, only 15.9% of patients in control group had this hearing loss. These aren’t the only proofs of a link between hearing loss and RA. For example, Halligan CS of the Division of Rheumatology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine from Rochester, Minnesota conducted a study which included 29 patients with RA with diseases duration longer than 5 years.
Five men and five women were added to each age group category (40-49, 50-59, 60-69). These cases were matched to 30 participants in the control group. Results of the study, published in the Laryngoscope, revealed that 17 of 29 patients with RA or 59% had the abnormal hearing for at least one frequency. 14 people (47%) from the control group reported the same thing.
Scientists concluded the study explaining that although there was no big difference in hearing loss measurements in people with and without RA, it is possible that patients with this types of arthritis are more likely to perceive themselves as having hearing impairments. This is usually a result of stress due to living with RA.
Medications could be the primary culprit
According to the study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, medications could be the primary culprit for hearing loss that is associated with RA. The study revealed that women who took ibuprofen or acetaminophen two or more days per week were more likely to report hearing impairment than women who rarely took painkillers. Furthermore, the more often women took their medications, the more was increased the risk of hearing loss.
While women who took ibuprofen or acetaminophen two or three days a week had increased risk for hearing loss by 13%, the women who took medications for six to seven days a week had increased the risk for hearing impairment by 24%.
Why does this happen? According to scientists, painkillers reduce blood flow to the cochlea and deplete factors which protect it from damage.
Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED)
RA is defined as an autoimmune disease, which means your immunity system attacks healthy tissues and cells. According to the American Hearing Foundation, autoimmune inner ear disease develops when the immune system attacks your ear. The primary symptom of AIED is worsening hearing loss as well as ringing in your ears and dizziness.
AIED has been linked with RA as well as lupus and psoriatic arthritis. However, you should bear in mind that AIED is quite rare and accounts for 1% of all cases of hearing loss.
Managing hearing loss when you have RA
It is extremely important to manage your hearing loss as soon as you experience some changes. You should schedule an appointment and consult your doctor who will suggest the necessary test that will determine the severity of hearing loss as well as whether it is associated with RA.
If hearing loss is left untreated, it can lead to accelerated cognitive decline and brain atrophy. For example, the study conducted by The Johns Hopkins Center for Aging and Health revealed that hearing loss didn’t only accelerate cognitive decline, but it was its primary cause in most patients. Below, you can see some tips that will help you manage hearing loss when you have RA:
- Get a hearing test on audio-gram
- Ask your doctor to recommend over-the-counter medications you can take
- Avoid spending too much time in loud and noisy environment
- When working or having to spend too much time in loud and noisy environment, wear ear protection such as earplugs
- Don’t listen to music too loud
- To make sure you don’t miss something, particularly at work, you should be upfront and inform people your hearing is impaired
- Before you purchase hearing aid, test them in a free trial
- Stay positive and bear in mind you didn’t lose your hearing entirely.
Arthritis and its different forms go beyond the pain in joints. This disease can coexist with other chronic diseases, including hearing loss. When it comes to this comorbidity, it still matters of dispute among scientists. Some of them claim that hearing loss is caused by RA; others assume it is stress associated with living with RA that causes hearing loss, while there are scientists who strongly believe that medications cause hearing impairment. Regardless of the reason, one thing is for sure – hearing loss is connected with RA. To manage it properly, see your doctor as soon as you notice changes in your hearing.