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Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) or sudden deafness, affects about 0.5% of adults each year. The condition arises when a person “suddenly” cannot hear out of one or both ears. The far more common form of sensorineural hearing loss is a gradual process that develops over years.
In the case of sudden hearing loss, however, hearing is lost immediately and without a known external cause, such as an explosion or other loud noise. One of the other puzzling features of sudden hearing loss is that it commonly occurs in only one ear. Some people think that the cause is allergies, earwax, or another temporary affliction, and in some cases they might be right.
However, sudden hearing loss is a serious condition that should be treated as such.
Upon diagnosis, doctors are able to understand the cause of sudden hearing loss in only 10-15% of cases. Some of these causes, however, can be very serious, such as a bacterial or viral infection or even a tumor. For these reasons, it is imperative to seek medical attention if you experience sudden hearing loss.
With the cause of so many cases of sudden hearing loss going undiagnosed, research is crucial. Fortunately, a recent study discovered a surprising link between sudden hearing loss and osteoporosis. This connection encourages researchers to dig more deeply into the connection between bone health and hearing. Let’s take a look at the study before considering some of the ways that hearing and bone health might be connected.
The Link with Osteoporosis
The study, based in Korea, surveyed 68,241 patients aged 50 and older who had a diagnosis of osteoporosis between 2002 and 2013. In this large sample of respondents, it was determined that a much higher rate of sudden hearing loss was occurring among those with a diagnosis of osteoporosis: 0.8%. Although that rate is still rather low in the general population, this rate of sudden hearing loss is 40% higher among those with osteoporosis than among those in the general population. Furthermore, they discovered that the risk increased with age. Particularly among women, who are at the highest risk for osteoporosis, older age put them at a disadvantage for experiencing sudden hearing loss. This finding is supported by earlier research coming from Taiwan that also discovered a link between osteoporosis and sudden hearing loss.
Explaining the Connection
Although this study has only established a statistical link between the two conditions, one has to wonder how they are connected and if one might be causing the other. Another way to look at the issue is to ask if there might be an underlying cause that is making a person experience both a diagnosis of osteoporosis and sudden hearing loss. We know that the ears rely on a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients to be able to do their work of hearing, and it is possible that a blockage in the flow of important nutrients is causing both sudden hearing loss and osteoporosis. Furthermore, it is possible that demineralization of the three middle ear bones, including the stapes, might have a link with sudden hearing loss. Just as sudden hearing loss is generally mysterious in the medical literature, the connection with osteoporosis remains so, as well.
If you have had an experience with sudden hearing loss, it is crucial that you seek medical attention. Just as it is possible that the sudden hearing loss is connected to a very serious health concern, it is also possible that it is connected to an ongoing condition that might give you more trouble down the road.
Sudden hearing loss is an opportunity for a full battery of examinations and a comprehensive physical, determining what underlying health issues might be causing the problem. In the best case, you might have something as minor as earwax buildup, but in the worst case, you will be glad you sought immediate care. If you find out that osteoporosis is an underlying condition, as well, your health provider can recommend the right range of solutions that might have an effect on your hearing health, as well.
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, contact us today for a consultation and hearing test.