People with osteoporosis may be almost twice as likely to develop sudden hearing loss, compared to people without the bone disease, according to researchers in Taiwan.
Reuters Health reports that the cause of this sudden deafness is unknown, but the rapid loss of hearing typically affects one ear, and it’s estimated to strike about one in every 5,000 Americans each year. In particular, the researchers looked for sudden cases of so-called sensori-neural hearing loss, which happens when the inner ear is damaged, or when there is damage to the nerve pathways from the ear to the brain.
Typical risk factors include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and diabetes. The current study is the first to look at osteoporosis as a risk factor in Asian patients, according to its authors.
"In our clinical practice, we encountered many osteoporotic patients in outpatient clinics and some of them complained of hearing problems, so we started to research the associated studies and papers," senior author Dr Kai-Jen Tien, an endocrinologist at the Chi Mei Medical Centre in Tainan is quoted as saying. "According to previous reports, there seems to be a causal relationship but the risk relationship between these two diseases was not clear," said Tien
For the study, Tien's team analysed data from health insurance claims for nearly all residents of Taiwan. They compared 10,660 people who were diagnosed with osteoporosis between 1998 and 2008 to 31,980 randomly selected patients who were similar, but without osteoporosis. The researchers followed all the patients through 2011 and found that 91 of those with osteoporosis were diagnosed with sudden deafness compared to 155 patients from the much larger control group.
That translated to a sudden deafness rate of about 10 people in 10,000 per year with osteoporosis versus about 6 per 10,000 per year without osteoporosis. "The main results found an approximately 1.76-fold increase in the incidence of (sudden sensori-neural hearing loss) for patients with osteoporosis compared with the comparison group," Tien said.
In addition, Tien noted, patients with more severe osteoporosis may have a higher risk of sudden deafness than patients with milder bone disease. "Our study cannot answer if early detection and treatment (of osteoporosis) can reduce the risk of sensori-neural hearing loss," Tien said. "Further prospective and intervention study should be done to resolve the question." More research is also needed to understand what the connection might be between bone disease and hearing loss.
Tien said doctors should not ignore hearing problems in osteoporotic patients, and osteoporotic patients should seek help early if they suffer from suspected hearing impairment.
[link url="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/08/us-health-osteoporosis-sudden-deafness-idUSKBN0NT28P20150508"]Full Reuters Health report[/link]
[link url="http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jc.2014-4316"]Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism abstract[/link]