What is the first thing that comes to mind when you consider hearing loss? Perhaps it’s having to turn the TV’s volume up more and more over time or asking friends and family to repeat themselves, or even being wary of going out in public due to the loud noises that cause so much disruption. Most of the time, hearing loss is associated with aging or with exposure to loud sounds and excessive noise, so this is what you will more than likely think of initially and in many cases, you would be right. But not in every case.

Another reason for hearing loss could be rheumatoid arthritis, and this is something you generally won’t consider, because it might be one of the less well-known causes of hearing loss.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease, and although it is most prevalent in older people, anyone can actually develop it, no matter what their age. Right now, around one million adults in the US have rheumatoid arthritis, and the number is growing.

Essentially, when you have rheumatoid arthritis, the body thinks it is under attack and therefore the immune system starts to get to work. Unfortunately, instead of fighting against any sickness and making the person well, the immune system attacks the body, particularly the joints, which causes inflammation, leading to uncomfortable swelling and a great deal of pain. Some patients will also experience physical changes; their joints can become malformed and sometimes the bones can be affected. Mobility is significantly reduced, and the pain can often be unbearable.

How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Linked to Hearing Loss?

In recent clinical trials, the results show that those who have rheumatoid arthritis had a much higher chance of developing hearing loss than those without rheumatoid arthritis. This hearing loss was determined to be sensorineural hearing loss, which means that it is due to the ear and not an issue with the brain, as can sometimes be the case with other types of hearing loss. The hair cells within the inner ear will have been damaged when you have sensorineural hearing loss, and since they don’t repair themselves, this will lead to permanent hearing loss.

How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Lead to Hearing Loss?

Although there does seem to be a link between rheumatoid arthritis and hearing loss, researchers don’t yet know exactly what it is. It could be that when the immune system attacks the body, it also attacks the cells within the ears, causing inflammation and damage there as well as in the joints. This might not lead to any pain – and therefore, it’s not something the patient will notice, especially when their knees or fingers are causing them pain – but it could be happening.

An alternative theory is the pain relief a patient might be taking. Clearly, they will want to take some kind of pain relief, but studies have shown that some painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen do have a direct link as one of the more unusual causes of hearing loss. Since those who have rheumatoid arthritis will be in a great deal of pain, they will take more painkillers than others who don’t have the condition and therefore their hearing loss might come about because of it.

Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

Although specialists cannot currently cure rheumatoid arthritis, there are a number of treatment options available to reduce the pain and improve mobility. The key is to stop the inflammation; the sooner this is stopped, the less permanent damage will be done to the joints. These treatments might include medication, for example.

It’s crucial for anyone with rheumatoid arthritis to play a role in their own treatment and be as proactive as possible. Some of the ways you can do this if you have developed this condition include exercising as much as you can, eating a healthy diet, resting when needed, taking your medication as prescribed and using heat pads to reduce swelling.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and you are concerned that you might also have hearing loss, the best thing to do is to contact your local hearing instrument specialist for assistance. They will carry out the appropriate hearing tests and determine whether hearing loss has occurred. If it has, they will recommend your next steps, which might include wearing a hearing aid. To find out more and discover what we can do to help you, contact the Center for Better Hearing today at 510-768-7091.