How Bone Loss and Hearing Loss Might Be Linked

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss more common among osteoporosis patients

(RxWiki News) Osteoporosis may make you more likely to experience a surprising condition: hearing loss.

Patients with osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and prone to breaking, may be more prone to sudden deafness — also known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) — than people who do not have this condition, a new study found.

The study authors, led by Kai-Jen Tien, MD, of Chi Mei Medical Center in Tainan, Taiwan, said they did not know why having weak bones might make someone more likely to have SSHL. However, in a press release, Dr. Tien said that “patients who have osteoporosis should be aware they need to seek medical help immediately if they experience hearing loss.”

Past studies had suggested a link between SSHL and osteoporosis, but they were not conclusive. Since past studies ”had inconsistent reports about osteoporosis and hearing loss, I am surprised that our follow-up study demonstrated a strong relationship between osteoporosis and hearing loss,” Dr. Tien told dailyRx News.

For their study, Dr. Tien and team looked at 10,600 Taiwan residents diagnosed with osteoporosis between 1999 and 2008. They compared these people to nearly 32,000 people without osteoporosis. They looked at insurance records to see who had been diagnosed with sudden deafness by the end of 2011.

Patients with osteoporosis were 1.76 times more likely to experience SSHL than people without the bone condition.

Sam Marzo, MD, an otolaryngologist at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, said he sees several people every week who have this condition, but he had never heard of a connection with osteoporosis.

“I was very surprised,” Dr. Marzo told dailyRx News.

Dr. Marzo noted that inflammation seems to be involved in the development of sudden deafness and is also a factor in osteoporosis. That could explain the connection, he said.

Dr. Marzo said he encourages patients to exercise and eat what he considers a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet — one high in fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil with limited sugar, dairy and processed foods.

SSHL is unexplained hearing loss that happens quickly, often in just one ear. About half of people who get it regain their hearing in two to three weeks. Treatment is very important. About 85 percent of people who receive treatment for SSHL recover some hearing.

After six to eight weeks, however, there may be nothing that can be done, as the cochlea (an inner part of the ear responsible for hearing) may be permanently damaged, Dr. Marzo said.

“More people worldwide are suffering from osteoporosis, and our work shows they are at risk of sensorineural hearing loss as well as bone fracture and other problems,” Dr. Tien said.

This study was published online April 16 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Dr. Tien and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 16, 2015