Studies show that osteoporosis increases the risk of developing hearing loss. Impacting an estimated 48 million people, hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition that people experience today. Impaired hearing reduces the capacity to detect and process sound which not only strains communication but takes a toll on various aspects of life: relationships, work, social engagement, etc. If you navigate osteoporosis, it is important to prioritize your hearing health!
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to loss of bone density, causing bones to become weakened. This occurs when the body’s process of replenishing bone tissue (which it does consistently) slows down, causing bones to be broken down more quickly than the body can replace the tissue. This fragility makes it so that the bones can break or experience fractures more easily. According to the Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation, nearly 54 million people have osteoporosis or low bone mass. This condition can be painful with minor injuries causing a greater impact on already weakened bones. In addition to chronic pain, osteoporosis can impact the bones of the spine which affects height as well as posture. This can produce mobility issues and affect the capacity to navigate daily life independently.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Osteoporosis
Research shows that there is a correlation between osteoporosis and hearing loss. A major 2015 study reveals that osteoporosis can significantly increase the risk of developing hearing loss. Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, a research team in Taiwan investigated the risk of hearing loss among patients with osteoporosis. They collected data from a national health database on 10,000 people with diagnosed osteoporosis and 32,0-00 people without the condition. Comparing both groups, researchers found that people with osteoporosis were:
- 76% more likely to develop hearing loss
- Women were 87% more likely to develop hearing loss compared to the general population
Researchers suggested that loss of bone mass and demineralization help explain this significant correlation between hearing loss and osteoporosis. The outer ear detects and absorbs sound waves from the environment which travel down the ear canal, landing on the eardrum. These vibrations activate the ossicles in the middle ear – three connected bones that are among the smallest in the body. These bones help propel the soundwaves further into the ear where they are converted into electrical signals that are then sent to the brain. Researchers suggest that osteoporosis can affect the bones in the middle ear, reducing their ability to carry out an essential function needed for hearing, contributing to hearing loss.
Protecting Hearing Health
If you have osteoporosis or low bone mass, it is incredibly important to prioritize your hearing health because of the increased risk of impairment. The first step is simple: schedule an appointment for a hearing test. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests involve a relatively quick and painless process that measures hearing in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss, the types of sounds that can be more challenging to hear, the degree of impairment in each ear, etc.
We highly recommend having your hearing tested consistently (once every year). Once your baseline is established, it becomes easier to identify any changes to your hearing health that you may experience over time. Fortunately, there are effective ways that hearing loss is treated. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are electronic devices that are designed to detect and process sound. This provides the ears and brain with incredible support, maximizing hearing capacity.
In addition to having your hearing assessed regularly, there are other safety measures you can practice to protect your hearing health. This includes:
- Wear hearing protection: wearing headphones, earplugs, or earmuffs is a great way to reduce the amount of loud noise you absorb. Exposure to loud noise also contributes to hearing loss. Protective wear offers a barrier for the ears which minimizes the impact of loud noise.
- Pay attention to bone health: be assessed by your doctor if you experience low bone mass or bone-related injuries. It is important to know if you have osteoporosis (or are prone to it).
Be sure to take the steps to tend to your hearing health today. Scheduling an appointment for a hearing test can change the trajectory of your hearing and overall health!