Hearing management

Updated 13 December 2017

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

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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