Sudden Hearing Loss More Likely in People With Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can affect the ear and hearing at the level of the middle ear bones and through vascular changes.
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According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, over 200 million people worldwide have osteoporosis. In this disease, bones become porous and prone to breaks. Previous schools of thought proposed a link between otosclerosis and hearing loss due to involvement of the bones in the middle ear space (also called ossicles, or “hammer”, “anvil” and “stirrup” bones). A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that people with osteoporosis had a 76% greater risk of sudden sensorineural hearing loss.

The study examined records of 10,660 people diagnosed with osteoporosis and compared them to 31,980 without osteoporosis. They found a much higher incidence of sudden hearing loss in the group with osteoporosis.

The mechanism by which these authors theorized osteoporosis is thought to contribute to sudden sensorineural hearing loss is through its effect on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems of the body, bone demineralization, inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. The inner ear is very sensitive to oxygen and blood flow; a reduction of blood flow to this system can result in damage to the ear and associated hearing loss.

Symptoms of sudden sensorineural hearing loss may include:

  • Loss of hearing, usually in one ear. This may present as unclear (muffled) sound quality or loss in volume. The hearing loss will usually occur all at once or over a period of a few days.
  • Ringing in the ear (tinnitus).
  • Aural fullness or feeling of pressure in the ear.
  • Vertigo or spinning sensation.
  • In some cases, the only symptom is hearing loss.

Do you have osteoporosis?

While commonly thought of as a condition that affects women, men also get osteoporosis. You are also more at risk if you have family members with osteoporosis, you smoke or drink, or take certain medications, such as prednisone, long-term.

In many cases, osteoporosis is silent and people do not realize they have it until they break a bone.

  • Symptoms of osteoporosis may include:
  • Back pain due to fractured or collapsed vertebrae.
  • Stooped appearance.
  • Loss of height.
  • Breaking bones easily.

If you have these symptoms, it is a good idea to discuss them with your physician. Testing for osteoporosis is non-invasive and there are drug treatments available and lifestyle changes that help prevent damage.

If you think you have osteoporosis and are experiencing a sudden hearing loss, it is important to get to an ENT physician and audiologist immediately. If treated early enough, there is a better chance for recovery of hearing.

To find an audiologist in your area, the American Academy of Audiology has a locator feature on their website. If you type in your zip code, a list of local audiologists will be provided. ENT physicians can be found using the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery website.

Sources

Endocrine Society. (2015, April 16). Osteoporosis diagnosis contributes to hearing loss risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 13, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150416132017.htm

Epidemiology. International Osteoporosis Foundation. Retrieved August 13, 2015 from http://www.iofbonehealth.org/epidemiology

Sudden Hearing Loss (n.d.) Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center. Retrieved August 14, 2015 from http://www.vanderbilthealth.com/billwilkerson/27939.

Mayo Clinic Staff (n.d.). Osteoporosis. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved August 14, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteoporosis/basics/definition/con-20019924

Preidt, Robert (2015, April 22). Could Weak Bones, Sudden Hearing Loss Be Linked? In study, people with osteoporosis were at higher risk for deafness occurring over a few days. WebMD. Retrieved August 13, 2015 from http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/news/20150422/could-weak-bones-sudden-hearing-loss-be-linked

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