Many physical, social and psychological conditions are associated with hearing. These include loneliness, isolation, depression, an increased risk of falling, cognitive decline that can result in memory impairment, dementia and more. Scientists continue to study other conditions to learn about their connections with hearing loss, and the results are often surprising.
For years, medical professionals have been aware of a possible link between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and hearing loss. Statistics show that patients with RA suffer disproportionately higher rates of hearing loss, leading many to speculate that inflammatory arthritis and the medications used to treat it may contribute to a decline in hearing ability. A 2016 study by Amir Emamifar, M.D., Ph.D., a research fellow at the University of Southern Denmark, found that up to 72% of RA patients experienced sensorineural hearing loss. More recently, a systematic review of 12 observational studies that included 20,022 patients with RA and an additional 79,233 control subjects found that RA patients were four times as likely as the controls to develop sensorineural hearing loss.
- Researchers believe that RA activity occurs in the middle ear, cochlea and auditory nerve, leading to a higher chance of hearing loss. Other possibilities include:
- RA can damage the joints between the tiny bones inside the ear.
- Rheumatoid nodules occasionally develop in the ears, interfering with hearing.
- RA increases clusters of antibodies and antigens, which can destroy the tiny hair cells of the inner ear.
- Vasculitis, a complication of RA, can damage the hair cells’ ability to transmit electrical signals to the auditory
nerve and brain.
- Many of the medications used to treat inflammatory arthritis are ototoxic.
Although the likely causes of hearing loss in people with RA vary, the bottom line is the same. Individuals with RA should undergo regular hearing screenings to detect problems early and get treatment as soon as possible, allowing them to potentially prevent the development of social isolation, loneliness and depression that may come with untreated hearing loss.
If you’re concerned you or someone you care about may have a hearing loss, call Precision Hearing at 352-765-8008 today to schedule an appointment.