Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation affecting nearly every part of your body. While the condition mainly attacks the joints in your hands, wrists and knees, a new study has found a link to hearing loss.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
The immune system of those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) mistakenly attacks health cells, causing inflammation and swelling in parts of the body. While RA usually attacks the joints, causing chronic pain, it can also affect tissues and bones throughout the body.
Those with RA will experience flares where their symptoms are worse and remission when they feel better. Common symptoms include:
- Pain or aching in joints
- Joint stiffness
- Tenderness and swelling in joints
- Weight loss
While the specific cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, experts have determined that there are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease, including your age, gender, genetics and your smoking habits.
Effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis involves a combination of medications and self-management strategies.
RA Linked with Hearing Loss
A review and meta-analysis published last month in Rheumatology International investigated whether this autoimmune disorder is associated with specific types of hearing loss. The researchers reviewed studies consisting of 20,022 patients with RA and 79,233 controls.
They found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are four times more likely to develop sensorineural hearing loss compared to healthy controls. RA was not found to increase the risk of conductive or mixed hearing loss.
The researchers explained, “RA is associated with multiple extra-articular manifestations (EAMs). Middle ear, cochlea, and the auditory nerve are suspected sites of RA activity, and hearing loss is a possible novel EAM of RA … Early screening of RA patients with pure tone audiometry should be considered.”
Additional Hearing Loss Research
A 2016 study called “Is Hearing Impairment Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis? A Review” sought to determine if this autoimmune disease affecting one percent of the population has a connection to an increase in hearing loss. Based on their review, they found that patients with RA are at a higher risk of hearing impairment than healthy subjects.
They noted that environmental factors such as noise exposure, cigarette smoke and alcohol use can worsen the hearing impairment.
While there is no definite answer to why rheumatoid arthritis leads to an increased risk of hearing loss, experts agree that if you have been diagnosed with RA, it is important to get your hearing checked regularly. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, contact Eastern Oklahoma ENT today.