Are you worried about your hearing health? Maybe you’ve noticed some recent changes in your hearing abilities. You ask people to repeat themselves, but still can’t always understand the conversation. Along with looking after your hearing health, it’s important to consider your overall health and wellbeing. Your overall health, as well as specific health issues, can also impact your hearing.
It may surprise you to learn that hearing loss and rheumatoid arthritis are linked. While this may seem like a strange connection, it actually makes a lot of sense. Arthritis can cause inflammation throughout the body, and the ears are no exception. Here’s what you need to know about hearing loss and rheumatoid arthritis.
What the Numbers Say
According to researchers, there is a clear link between arthritis and hearing loss. Adults with arthritis have significantly higher rates of hearing loss than other adults in the same age range and with similar lifestyles. In fact, research from 2016 found that up to 72% of adults with rheumatoid arthritis report having hearing loss!
Another recent article reviewed 12 studies with nearly 80,000 participants. This article found that adults with rheumatoid arthritis were four times more likely to experience hearing loss than adults without arthritis.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss and Arthritis
The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss. When cells in the ear are damaged, they can’t translate sound waves to electrical impulses and send these signals to the brain. The auditory regions of the brain don’t get a complete picture of the sounds around you, so you experience hearing loss.
Arthritis is linked to sensorineural hearing loss. Both the inflammation caused by arthritis, as well as the medications used to manage arthritis, can damage the cells in the ear, making it more difficult to hear.
Conductive Hearing Loss and Arthritis
Conductive hearing loss is caused by damage to the outer or middle ear. The cells in the inner ear may still be able to send signals to the brain, but something in the ear blocks the sound waves from reaching the inner ear.
Arthritis affects every part of the body, including the ears. It can affect the cartilage, joints, and bones in the ear, as well as the delicate cells in the inner ear. Arthritis can cause hearing loss through inflammation and damage to the joints in the bones of the middle ear. Rheumatoid nodules can also contribute to hearing loss if they develop in the ear.
Inflammation and Hearing Loss
One of the main symptoms of arthritis is inflammation in the joints. This can cause discomfort and pain in the hands and feet. But inflammation can occur in the ears. When cartilage in the ear is inflamed, it can cause hearing loss. Any kind of chronic inflammation in the ears can damage the nerves and make it difficult for cells to communicate. Ongoing inflammation also damages blood vessels, interferes with blood flow, and can deprive cells in the ear of the oxygen needed to hear.
Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis
The most common treatment for arthritis is to take painkillers. This can reduce inflammation and bring some relief. However, sometimes it’s arthritis treatment rather than arthritis itself that can contribute to hearing loss.
Ototoxic medications are medications that can damage hearing. Studies show that frequent use of ibuprofen or acetaminophen can increase the risk of hearing loss. For example, taking ibuprofen several days a week can increase the risk of hearing loss.
Schedule a Hearing Test
Do you have arthritis or other joint pain? Schedule a hearing test to check in on your hearing health. Sometimes treating arthritis can relieve some of the symptoms of hearing loss, but in most cases, adults with arthritis and hearing loss will need to treat their hearing loss as well.
Adults with arthritis should have regular hearing tests to monitor hearing health. We recommend yearly hearing tests so you can stay on top of your hearing health. Detecting hearing loss early provides better treatment options. You’ll also have an easier time adjusting to your new devices, and you’ll be less likely to suffer other side effects such as loneliness or social isolation. Visit us today for a hearing test and find out more about your hearing health.