How Are Hearing Loss and RA Connected?

By Pete Lane, 9:00 am on

Daily, seniors with RA manage the challenging symptoms with courage, strength, and tenacity. As medical specialists acquire more knowledge, better control of the disease is being achieved. Recently, research has also uncovered a connection between rheumatoid arthritis and hearing impairment. If you provide home care in Centennial for an elderly loved one who has RA, you might be interested to learn more about the scientific findings.

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis

Our immune system is wired to protect our body from intruders. When it senses the presence of a foreign entity, it signals a red alert. Defensive cells and antibodies respond, launching an attack against germs. However, in the case of RA, normal tissue is considered foreign and posing a biological threat. The immune system announces there’s a stranger in the house and body tissues becomes the target of assault.

Joint linings become inflamed and thick, causing swelling and pain. Cushioning tissue at the ends of bones, termed cartilage, begins to erode. If the irritation goes unchecked, cartilage loss leads to bone-on-bone.

Commonly impacted are the joints of the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, and feet. The cochlea of the inner ear can also be affected. This snail-shaped sense organ translates sound waves into nerve messages that are delivered to the brain. When cochlear nerve cells malfunction, people may experience:

  • Ringing, termed “tinnitus”
  • Dizziness
  • Sensation of fullness within the ear canal
  • Hearing impairment

What Research Reveals

Health authorities have mixed views on the link between RA and hearing impairment (HI). A 2006 study by the Mayo Clinic found no clear correlation while subsequent research has shown a direct connection.

In 2014, the University Hospital Clinic in Valencia, Spain, conducted a study that showed a definite correlation between RA and HI. The research involved 301 RA subjects. Nearly half of them experienced hearing loss. Compared to 16 percent of the general population, 43 percent of RA subjects had HI. Women were more impacted than men. Hearing loss was not just limited to older study participants. Average age of the RA subjects was 41.

Medication-Induced Hearing Loss

Many drugs used to treat RA list hearing loss as a side effect. Among them are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Another suspect drug is Plaquenil. Scientists speculate that these medications may impair blood flow to the cochlea.

An estimated 1.3 million Americans have RA. We’re all in this together, and the future can only get better! Be proactive and protect your loved one’s hearing, a vital aspect of his or her health.

If hearing loss is making certain daily activities more challenging for your loved one, don’t hesitate to call Home Care Assistance at 303.957.3100. While we are known for our Alzheimer’s care Centennial families trust, we offer flexible hourly and live-in care services for seniors who need assistance on an as-needed basis. Reach out today and find out more about how we can help.