When we’re able to hear clearly, we often take our hearing for granted. We don’t recognize the risks to our hearing health, or take steps to prevent a hearing loss. One risk to hearing health is a bone disease. Did you know that osteoporosis and sudden hearing loss are linked? It’s a connection that’s not obvious at first, but several recent studies have found that osteoporosis increases the risk of sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
What is Osteoporosis?
Around 54 million Americans have osteoporosis, or “porous bones”. This is a degenerative disease that attacks your bones. As the condition progresses, the bones stop growing, or the body stops producing enough bone cells. Your bones will lose density, and holes become visible when looking at the bone through a microscope. The bones become weaker, and you’re far more likely to suffer from a broken bone or a bone fracture. You may even break a bone with a small bump. Since the bones aren’t as strong, you’re also more likely to lose your balance or have a fall that can lead to an injury.
Osteoporosis and Hearing Loss
A 2015 study from Taiwan researched health data collected from approximately one million people, and compared hearing loss between those with osteoporosis and those without. They discovered that people with osteoporosis were nearly twice as likely to have hearing loss than people without osteoporosis!
A similar 2018 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found the same results. These researchers, based in Korea, compared hearing loss rates among people with osteoporosis and those without. They looked at data from over 65,000 adults who were 50 or older, and found that osteoporosis was a definite risk factor for hearing loss. People with this degenerative bone disease are approximately 40% more likely to have a sudden sensorineural hearing loss than adults with healthy bones.
Connecting Osteoporosis, Sudden Hearing Loss, and Age
For adults with osteoporosis, the risk of a sudden sensorineural hearing loss increases among older adults. Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease, meaning it gets worse over time. It’s easy to see how the chances of hearing loss would also increase with age. Adults over the age of 50 are more likely to experience sudden hearing loss than younger adults. With increasing age, this trend only continues in women, with women over the age of 60 having an increased risk of osteoporosis than younger people.
How Does Osteoporosis Cause Sudden Hearing Loss?
Both the Taiwanese and Korean study show that people with osteoporosis are at a higher risk of sudden hearing loss. But how are these two conditions linked? Some researchers believe that it’s caused by inflammation. Osteoporosis often leads to inflammation, and when this inflammation is in or near the ear, it can quickly damage the delicate cells in the inner ear and lead to sudden hearing loss.
Another theory is that osteoporosis affects heart health. If heart health is compromised, oxygenated blood is not being pumped throughout the body. The cells in the ear suffer from this lack of consistent blood flow, and you may experience sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
If you’ve recently broken or fractured a bone, ask your doctor for a bone density test to see if you may have osteoporosis. Carefully monitor your bone health, and be especially cautious to avoid further injury. Along with monitoring your bone health, your doctor will monitor your heart health. You may also take medications to strengthen your bones and prevent more bone density loss.
Treating Hearing Loss
Have you noticed sudden hearing loss in one or both ears? Speak to your doctor about it right away, since this could be a sign of osteoporosis. Then visit us at My Hearing Centers for a hearing test to find out if your sudden hearing loss is permanent. We’ll look for any signs of an illness, injury, infection, or inflammation that could have caused the sudden hearing loss.
If your sudden hearing loss is permanent, we’ll find the right hearing devices to help you get back to hearing all the sounds around you, and maintain your quality of life as you learn to navigate the world around you after a sudden hearing loss.