Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center / January 26, 2022
It’s common to be concerned about how osteoporosis is going to affect your daily life. The risk of breaking bones goes up significantly, and small falls can suddenly become a big deal.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition which causes a loss of bone density. When this happens the risk of breaking bones and fractures becomes much more likely. Currently, it is estimated that more than 200 million people are suffering from osteoporosis worldwide. Osteoporosis increases in risk as we age. The International Osteoporosis Foundation, reports that worldwide, 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 years and 1 in 5 men will experience osteoporotic fractures in their lifetime. However, the effects reach far beyond the bone density loss we normally think of, putting the tiny bones of our inner ear at risk.
Loss of Bone Density
Healthy bones are continually renewing and regenerating bone tissue. As we age the absorption and replacement of bone tissue slows down. When we begin to lose bone mass faster than we can replace it, is when osteoporosis is diagnosed. This leads to higher risks of bone fractures in the wrist, spine, and hip. Often people are not aware they even have this condition until they suffer a fracture. It’s a devastating condition because it not only leaves people more susceptible to injury, but the recovery time takes much longer due to the slow generation of bone tissue.
The Bones of Hearing
You may not think of the ears as a part of the body containing bones since the outer ear is mostly composed of cartilage. However, the auditory system is a complex and amazing combination of cells and bones which transfer audio vibrations from the outside world to our brain where it is processed. In fact, the middle ear contains auditory ossicles – which are actually three tiny, connected bones that are connected. The ossicles work as an amplifier of the soundwaves and send them to the inner ear. Within the inner ear the ossicles send sound to tiny hair-like cells within fluid inside the cochlea. These hair cells work as electrical transformers sending the signal to the brain for processing.
Hearing Loss and Osteoporosis
Many components can damage parts of this complex and fragile system, such as an impact to the head, loud noise, ototoxic chemicals, or chronic ear infections. When damage occurs to any part of this system at least parts of sound, whether it is tones or pitches, cannot reach the brain for comprehension, leaving people with permanent hearing loss. This includes the depletion of ossicles which are composed of bone and susceptible to loss of density due to osteoporosis.
Linking Hearing Loss and Bone Density Loss
One important study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2015 sought to solidify the relationship between hearing loss and this chronic bone condition. The researchers at the Chi Mei Medical Center in Taiwan examined data from a national health database, comparing 10,660 patients diagnosed with osteoporosis between 1998 and 2008 with a random selection of 31,980 patients without osteoporosis. They followed the participants until 2011 and found that patients with osteoporosis were 76% more likely to develop sudden hearing loss. Cisgendered Women with osteoporosis were 87% more likely to develop hearing loss compared to cisgendered men.
“A growing body of evidence indicates that osteoporosis affects not only bone health, but the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular system” explains co-author of the study, Dr. Kai-Jen Tien “Our findings suggest sudden sensorineural hearing loss can be another broader health problem connected to osteoporosis.”
Treating Your Hearing Loss
If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it is important to take action and actively treat your condition. Treatment includes medications, healthy diet, and weight-bearing exercise to help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones. If you are over 65 and haven’t screened for osteoporosis, don’t wait for you to suffer bone fractures or permanent hearing loss to find out.
Hearing loss can be an isolating disability, making it difficult to connect to loved ones, follow conversation and leaving people feeling chronically depressed. If you do have osteoporosis your hearing could be at risk. The best way to be prepared is to screen for potential issues early. Schedule a hearing exam today. We can diagnose the health of your ears and help you find the best solution for all your hearing needs.