Hearing Loss and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Hearing Loss and Rheumatoid Arthritis

By Rheumatoid Connect StaffA Published at October 10, 2016 Views 4,070

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect more than your joints. It could affect many different organs and systems in the body, possibly including your hearing. And hearing issues are surprisingly common in people with RA. The Arthritis Foundation says one study found that 42.7 percent of participants with RA had hearing loss. Here’s what you should know about it.

What's the connection between RA and hearing loss?

Some but not all research studies on RA and hearing loss have found evidence of a link between them. Meanwhile, Everyday Health says some doctors believe that hearing loss isn't caused by RA itself but by some of the medications used to manage it. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology that was reported on PubMed found that people who took ibuprofen at least six days a week had a 24 percent higher chance of developing hearing loss. A study in The American Journal of Medicine found a similar link to ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Hearing loss is fairly common in people with RA.

Hearing loss may also have to do with autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED), in which the body's natural defenses attack the ear's inner workings. AIED is sometimes an issue for people with RA because they have a compromised immune system. The website Hearing Health and Technology Matters adds that many people who experience fatigue also have trouble hearing, and fatigue is common in people with RA.

Is there a specific kind of loss involved?

According to a press release from Bentham Science Publishers that’s found on EurekAlert, the most common form of hearing loss for people with RA is called sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). It affects an estimated 25 to 72 percent of them. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association explains that this type of hearing loss results from trauma to the cochlea, which is the primary nerve pathway from the ear to the brain. SNHL is the most common form of permanent hearing loss, and it usually can't be corrected with surgery or medications. The press release notes that most people with RA who have hearing problems struggle to hear all frequencies.

What can you do to manage hearing loss?

Some experts say that people with RA should have more frequent screenings for hearing loss. If you do experience hearing loss as a result of RA, you might talk with your doctor about taking certain medications, like disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or oral steroids. Some people also claim that vitamin E and other antioxidants may help with hearing impairments.

Let your doctor know right away if your hearing changes. Early intervention is key, and some hearing problems may turn out to be less serious and only temporary. Finally, avoid exposure to loud noises, which can permanently damage your hearing. Use ear protection in any noisy environment, and watch the volume of your TV and music.

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