A Link Between Hearing Loss and Rheumatoid Arthritis

A Link Between Hearing Loss and Rheumatoid Arthritis

In Health, Hearing Health, Research, Signs & Symptoms by Dr. Robert Hooper Au.D.

Everyone knows that loud noise can damage your ears. However, there are lesser known causes of hearing loss that may surprise you. Some of these may include exposure to environmental toxins, certain medication, and smoking. However, did you know that rheumatoid arthritis has also been linked to hearing loss?

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease that affects an estimated 1.3 million adults in the United States and nearly 1 % of the worldwide population. This condition can start at any age but most commonly begins between ages 30 and 50 and becomes increasing more common as you age, affecting women at a much higher rate than men.

RA is technically an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system turns against the body. Instead of protecting the body from illnesses and by warding off viral or bacterial infections, the immune system assaults the joints, causing swelling, inflammation, and chronic pain. In addition, RA contributes to damage to cartilage, tissue surrounding joints and bones. Even when addressed it can be a lingering hinderance to mobility causing chronic painful joints.

Linking Hearing Loss and Rheumatoid Arthritis

It may be surprising to many that RA in addition to causing chronic joint pain can also contribute to hearing loss. However, clinical trials have found far higher rates of hearing loss among those with rheumatoid arthritis. 

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when damage occurs to the tiny cells and nerves which transmit audio information from the inner ear to the brain. Your body achieves this by transforming audio waves into electrical impulses sent to the brain using tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia. Stereocilia are incredibly fragile and can sustain damage via sound vibrations loud enough to bend or shatter them. Other causes of damage to the stereocilia include blood supply issues. Stereocilia rely on an ample and steady supply of blood to the inner ear. When the amount of oxygenated blood is limited, the stereocilia are more prone to damage and decay, causing irreversible hearing damage.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Those with RA were more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss. In fact, based on a 2006 study, 43% of those with RA also have hearing loss! The study from the Mayo Clinic, found that patients with RA were far more likely to perceive that they had hearing loss.     

How does RA Lead to Hearing Loss?

While finding are still being explored researchers believe that rheumatoid arthritis may affect hearing by the way the auto immune disease affects the entire body. It’s believed that just as RA can affect the joints it may also affect other body functions such as hearing.

It’s also believed that a cause of sensorineural hearing loss may be linked to the manner in which people treat RA. It’s far more common for those with RA to regularly take anti inflammatories such as Acetaminophen and ibuprofen. These drugs have ototoxic properties, meaning that at high and regular does they can affect blood flow to the inner ear, causing sensorineural hearing loss. Even taking these pain killers two or more days per week was linked to negative health effects. In fact, those who took pain killers six days a week had a 24% higher risk of hearing loss than those who didn’t. 

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

There is no cure for RA but there are certainly treatments to minimize pain and slow damage to your joints. The key is anti-inflammation, and this includes limiting salt in diet, drinking lots of hydrating fluids. Gentle and focused movements can also aid in reduced symptoms. Talk to your doctor about exercises which can help or seek the support of a physical therapist. Make sure to lower your stress as much as possible and get as much rest as possible and if symptoms are incredibly severe consider going for a dip. Swimming increased blood flow, helps build muscle, reduces stress and help relives weight off of your joints.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you have rheumatoid arthritis there is a good chance that hearing loss may be an issue as well. Part of treating RA should include regularly testing and treating your heairng loss. Healthy hearing can allow you to stay more active and engaged in the life you love. Contact us today to schedule your hearing exam and get in front of your RA.