Do you ever experience a severe pain in your foot or big toe? This often signifies gout, a common and complex form of arthritis. You wouldn’t think that a condition affecting your feet would affect your hearing as well, however, recent studies have indicated a strong connection between the two conditions.
What is Gout?
Most typically gout manifests itself as foot pain specifically at the base of the big toe and caused primarily when the body’s processing of uric acid is abnormal. Uric acid is a chemical created when the body breaks down substances called purines, a chemical produce by the body and found in some foods and drinks such as liver, anchovies, mackerel, dried beans, and peas. While most uric acid dissolves in blood and travels to the kidneys where it passes out in urine a build up can cause health issues. For instance, crystallization of the uric acid can cause it to accumulate in specific sites in the body. Aside from the feet and big toes this pain can occur in the ankles, knees, fingers, and elbows. Other symptoms include kidney stones and in progressed cases, kidney failure.
One of the oldest medical conditions on record dating back to Ancient Egypt in 2640 BCE, it has been recorded in every society throughout history. An attack will come on quickly and last from hours to days. In some rare instances a gout attack can last weeks. Once you have one attack, it’s common for attacks to become chronic, with multiple attacks over years.
Who is at Risk for Gout?
Affecting around 4% of the US population it is the most prevalent type of arthritis affecting the elderly population. Lifestyle factors affecting gout include moderate to heavy drinking, lifelong obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, kidney issues and hypothyroidism.
Does Gout Help Cause Hearing Loss?
It seems like a stretch to connect hearing loss to gout; however the entire body is connected in surprising ways. A recent study of statistical information recently identified that a history of gout increases the likelines of developing hearing loss by 44%. Based on a random sample containing 5% of Medicare records from 2006-2012, and corrected for demographics, drug prescriptions and comorbidities, the researchers noted missing information such as patients’ oxidative stress and inflammation levels. However, the researcher noted that while a link between gout, inflammation and hearing loss is likely, a more nuanced study is required to have more conclusive results.
Hyperuricemia and Hearing Loss
When uric acid builds up in the blood stream it is referred to as hyperuricemia. All people with gout also suffer from hyperuricemia as the body struggles to release uric acid from the body through the kidneys. However, many people have hyperuricemia without ever developing gout. The study examined a connection between hyperuricemia and hearing impairments as well but was unable to find a solid connection. While hyperuricemia has no symptoms when detected through blood work it is a warning sign that gout is a risk. To put this in perspective it’s estimated that while approximately 21% of the US population has hyperuricemia, only 4% have gout. This gap may be due to gouts appearance occurring commonly later in life, while hyperuricemia can be measured at a much earlier age and mortality due to other causes may prevent gout from forming later.
The lower you keep your uric acid levels the better, but how and what does this mean? One method is to ensure that you stay well hydrated and drink a recommended amount of non-caffeinated fluids daily. This helps flush uric acid out of your system, allowing your kidneys to function properly. Those who are heavy or regularly consume alcoholic beverages are also at risk as it can dehydrate the system, putting your body at a higher risk for gout.
A Healthy Lifestyle with Healthy Hearing
Other recommendations include avoiding foods high in uric acid such as shellfish and organ meats like liver, brain, and kidney. Eating a healthy well-rounded diet including ample vegetables, fruits and lean proteins can ensure that your body has the tools to flush out uric acid and keep your entire system working clear and clean. Hearing loss is common with age, with or without gout. If you suffer from hearing loss, it’s important to take action and schedule a hearing exam. Healthy hearing means being connected and communitive in the life you love.