When we think of the reasons why people lose their hearing, we usually look to the noise that they have been subjected to, or we put it down as something that happens as people get older.
However, hearing loss can also be the result of complications from chronic health conditions. This is an area that has been ignored in the past, but a body of research has emerged which has linked hearing loss to health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease. And now, research has pointed to sudden hearing loss being caused by osteoporosis.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, Osteoporosis is a bone disorder that reduces bone density and bone quality and affects approximately 54 million Americans. The risk of fracture is made more likely as bones become more porous and brittle. This bone loss happens gradually. Until the first bone is broken, there are often no signs of the condition.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL)
Sudden losses of hearing can affect one or both ears. Many individuals realize their symptoms upon waking up in the morning. Others first notice it when trying to use one particular ear, for example when using a mobile phone to make a call. A disturbing “pop” is noticed by others just before their hearing fades. People with sudden hearing loss often get dizzy and/or have tinnitus in their ears.
SSHL occurs in one out of 5,000 individuals each year in the United States. 50% of those recover their hearing almost instantly and 85% of the rest recover if diagnosed and treated rapidly.
Study links hearing loss with sudden hearing loss
A key study released by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism concluded that those with osteoporosis are 40% more likely than those without osteoporosis to develop sudden hearing loss. More than 65,000 adults over 50 years of age were screened in the research. Researchers looked for sudden hearing loss cases and discovered that there is an increased risk of impaired hearing for those with osteoporosis.
The same link between hearing and osteoporosis was found in another study in Taiwan. They analyzed medical records for more than 40,000 adults and discovered that those diagnosed with osteoporosis were much more susceptible to developing a sudden loss of hearing.
What is it about Osteoporosis that causes Sudden Hearing Loss?
While these two studies demonstrate a clear connection between cases of sudden hearing loss and osteoporosis, it is still uncertain why these two conditions are associated with each other.
Researchers theorize that the cardiovascular risks often seen with osteoporosis may affect the ear. When the heart does not efficiently pump blood, some structures may experience deprivation of oxygen, and the ears are often one of the structures that does not receive sufficient blood flow. The delicate cells in the inner ear may be damaged or even die, and the sustained deprivation of oxygen to the ears may result in sudden loss of hearing.
What you should do if you encounter a sudden hearing loss
Although a 40% risk increase seen in the first study is a significant rise, the general risk of sudden hearing loss is comparatively small. Only about 15 out of 100,000 people between the ages of 50 and 60 will suffer from SSHL. The numbers are even lower for those without osteoporosis.
However, you should keep a close eye on your hearing, as any sudden change in your hearing is a serious concern. Those with the disorder must act fast – the window for successful treatment is closed for two to four weeks after a hearing loss appears.
Immediate treatment can therefore maximize the chances of a total recovery of hearing.
Those who notice a change in their hearing should contact us immediately. We can act quickly and make sure that you are referred immediately for medical treatment if there is hearing loss present. Additionally, we can help treat the hearing loss in the unfortunate event that it becomes permanent. Managing hearing loss with hearing aids helps reduce the causes of stress associated with hearing loss and increases your quality of life.
Contact us to arrange a hearing consultation.