Hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions people live with today. Extensive research focuses on factors that increase the risk of developing impaired hearing. Studies show that osteoporosis can double the risk of hearing loss. Research reveals that there is a significant correlation between both conditions which impact older adults disproportionately. If you have osteoporosis, it is important to also prioritize and protect your hearing health.
What is Osteoporosis?
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, 44 million people live with osteoporosis or low bone mass. Osteoporosis occurs when the body’s ability to replace old bone tissue with new bone tissue (a regenerative process that is always happening) is reduced. This weakens bone health by lowering bone mass, making bones more fragile and vulnerable to experiencing fractures or breakage. The most common fractures associated with osteoporosis happen in the wrists, spine, and hip.
It is common for people to not know that they have osteoporosis or lower bone mass until they experience a fracture or injury. Osteoporosis can be impactful on everyday life, contributing to chronic pain and mobility issues. Studies also show that it can increase the risk of developing health conditions like hearing loss.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Osteoporosis
Studies show that there is a correlation between osteoporosis and sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL). Also known as sudden deafness, SSHL occurs rapidly (all at once or over a few days) and typically in one ear. SSHL is caused by injury or damage to the sensory organs in the inner ear. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 50% of people who experience SSHL will recover some or most of their hearing spontaneously.
Studies show a link between osteoporosis and hearing loss. A significant study that investigates this correlation was published in the The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Conducted by researchers at the Chi Mei Medical Center in Taiwan, this study involved analyzing data from a national health database on patients with and without osteoporosis. After evaluating data on 10,660 people with diagnosed osteoporosis and 31,980 people without the condition researchers found that:
- People with osteoporosis were 76% more likely to develop sudden sensorineural hearing loss
- Women with osteoporosis were 87% more likely to develop SSHL compared to men
This data shows a significant link between osteoporosis and hearing loss. This supports further research that highlights that osteoporosis can impact hearing health.
How Osteoporosis Impacts Hearing
Osteoporosis can impact hearing health in a few ways. The auditory system is the sensory system for hearing and it includes the ears and brain which work together to absorb and process sound. This includes the:
- Outer ear: the most visible portion of the ear absorbs soundwaves from the environment which travel down the ear canal and land on the eardrum.
- Middle ear: the movement and vibrations of the eardrum activates the ossicles. These are three tiny bones that are connected. The ossicles help propel soundwaves further into the inner ear.
- Inner ear: there are thousands of hair cells in the cochlea that are responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical signals. These signals then get carried to the brain which further processes these signals.
A key way that osteoporosis can impact this process is by damaging the ossicles in the middle ear. These bones play an integral role in the processing of soundwaves. The weakening of these bones reduces their capacity to perform their essential function which can contribute to hearing loss.
Tips to Protect Your Hearing Health
If you have osteoporosis or lower bone mass, it is even more important to prioritize your hearing health. You can do this by having your hearing tested regularly as well as wearing hearing protection. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures your hearing opacities in both ears. This identifies any hearing impairment you may be experiencing. Even if you do not have hearing loss, getting your hearing tested regularly allows you to monitor and stay on top of your hearing health. This allows you to intervene early if you experience any changes to your hearing over time. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. We look forward to supporting you and prioritizing your hearing, health and wellness.