Hearing management

Updated 08 May 2015

Could weak bones cause sudden hearing loss?

People with osteoporosis are at higher risk for developing sudden hearing loss, typically occurring in one ear.

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Although the reason for the connection isn't clear, osteoporosis and sudden, temporary hearing loss often occur together, a new study from Taiwan finds.

Sudden deafness

A team led by Dr. Kai-Jen Tien, of the Chi Mei Medical Centre in Tainan City, looked at more than 10,000 Taiwan residents diagnosed with the bone disease osteoporosis between 1999 and 2008. The researchers then compared them with nearly 32,000 people without the condition.

By the end of 2011, people with osteoporosis had a 76 percent higher risk of developing sudden deafness – an unexplained, rapid loss of hearing that typically occurs in one ear.

Read: Treating hearing loss

This type of hearing loss can occur all at once or over several days and is often temporary. According to background information from the researchers, about half of people who experience sudden hearing loss will regain their hearing, and about 85 percent of people who are treated for the condition recover some hearing.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Not only bone health

Whatever the connection, "a growing body of evidence indicates that osteoporosis affects not only bone health, but the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems," Tien said in a journal news release.

Sudden hearing loss may simply "be another broader health problem connected to osteoporosis," Tien said.

Read: Kids with stronger muscles have lower risk of osteoporosis

While the study couldn't prove cause-and-effect and the reasons for the link remain unclear, the study author theorised that heart risk factors, inflammation and bone demineralisation may each contribute to the association between weakening bones and quick loss of hearing.

"Patients who have osteoporosis should be aware they need to seek medical help immediately if they experience hearing loss," Tien said.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, more than 40 million Americans have osteoporosis or are at risk for the condition.

Read More:

1.1 billion youths risk hearing loss because of loud music

Gene discoveries may help osteoporosis

Can deaf people 'hear' voices?

Image: Senior man with hand on ear from Shutterstock

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Hearing Expert

Francis Slabber is a Speech & Language Therapist and Audiologist who has owned and run The Hearing Clinic in Wynberg, Cape Town for the last 17 years. Francis and her team have extensive experience in fitting and supplying hearing aids as well as assistive living devices. Francis has served as the Western Cape Chairperson for the South African Association of Audiologists for three years and has given many talks on the topic of hearing loss and amplification. The Hearing Clinic has a special interest in adult and geriatric hearing impairment, hearing aid fittings and hearing rehabilitation.

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