The Connection Between Osteoporosis and Hearing Loss
We know that there are genetic disorders that can lead to hearing loss, that injury to the head can cause hearing loss, and that there are environmental factors that can cause noise induced hearing loss. But did you know that there is a link between osteoporosis and hearing loss? Recent studies are showing that a decline in bone density can also affect the bones in the ear, and lead to hearing impairment. Read on for more about osteoporosis, how to prevent it, and how it could be linked to hearing loss.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis means “porous bone” and is a disease that affects the bones in the body, causing bone loss and bone weakness. When viewed under a microscope bones with osteoporosis look like a honeycomb, and their structural integrity is compromised. As bones become less dense, and filled with open air pockets, they are more susceptible to damage and breakage. Bone is a living tissue that breaks down and is replaced, and when the new tissue can’t keep up with breakage osteoporosis is the result. When you are young, your body is making new bone tissue faster than it is being broken down, and you are increasing bone mass. This usually peaks in people’s early 20s, and after this time bone is being lost at a faster rate than it is being produced.
Who Gets Osteoporosis?
Everyone is at risk for osteoporosis. Men, women, all ages and all races can have this problem with bone density. However, there are several risk factors that make you susceptible to developing osteoporosis. Being over 65, being a woman, being of Asian or Caucasian race, having a smaller build, going through menopause, hypogonadism in males, and having a family history of osteoporosis all put you at an increased risk. Hormone levels greatly affect osteoporosis, and lowered sex hormone levels weaken bones. Menopause presents a decrease in estrogen, and men experience a reduction in testosterone as they age. Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss, and this can occur naturally or when taking thyroid hormone to counteract an underactive thyroid. An eating disorder, or a lifelong lack of calcium can both play a role in the early development of osteoporosis, and gastrointestinal surgery can affect your body’s ability to absorb nutrients including calcium. Certain medications and medical conditions can lead to osteoporosis, including autoimmune disorders and digestive disorders. There are lifestyle choices that can increase your risk as well, including being sedentary, consuming too much alcohol, and using tobacco.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
The early stages of osteoporosis don’t really present with any symptoms, which makes it hard to treat. Once the bones are already weakened, you may have a loss of height, a stooped posture (dowager’s hump), back pain, or an increased incidence of bone fractures. There are some early signs that you might not immediately attribute to osteoporosis that you should keep on your radar: receding gums, decreased grip strength, weak or brittle fingernails, and cramps or muscle aches. Many of these symptoms are general, and can be from a variety of causes. Because the early signs can be silent, it is a good idea to get screened—especially if you fall into one of the higher risk categories.
If you suspect that you may be at risk for osteoporosis, or are already experiencing symptoms, you need to get a bone density test. It is recommended to get screened if you are a woman over 65, a man older than 70, any adult over 50 who has had a fracture, women who have more than one risk factor, if you have health conditions that increase your risk of osteoporosis, or if you are taking medications that can lead to bone loss. There are several types of screening available, peripheral tests that measure the density in the lower arm, wrist, finger, or heel, and DXA testing that measures the density of the hip and the spine. The screening tests are often used to see if you need further bone density testing, and can be done at health fairs or medical offices. A screening test will not diagnose osteoporosis, but will show if you need to get the DXA test. The DXA test can conclude whether you have osteoporosis.
How Hearing and Osteoporosis are Linked
Studies have linked sudden hearing loss with osteoporosis, and have found that having osteoporosis increases your risk of sudden deafness by 76 percent. This type of hearing loss can be regained, but often the cause remains unknown. It seems that the demineralization of the temporal bones inside the middle ear could affect hearing, and while the study didn’t prove cause and effect, it did show that there was a relationship between the two. In the U.S. one in 5000 people every year develop sudden onset hearing loss, and with prompt treatment they could regain some of it. But what if we worked on identifying the early signs of osteoporosis and improving the bone quality to improve and protect hearing? If you do have osteoporosis, you should keep a close eye on your hearing and get tested immediately if you experience any signs of hearing loss.
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, or your bone density screening reveals that you may be at risk, you should take steps immediately to strengthen your bones. There are numerous medications available that can help, usually bisphosphonates. Hormones can also help, but current recommendations say to use hormones at the lowest dose for the least amount of time possible. Osteoporosis medications work to slow bone breakdown, and maintain bone density. Your doctor will advise you on the medication you should be taking, and it might be a matter of preference, convenience, how well you can adhere to the dosing schedule, and cost to determine which one is right for you. Bisphosphonate can cause stomach upset and heartburn, so always take with a large glass of water. Medication is not the only treatment you should rely on, there are also lifestyle changes that you should make. You should make sure to get some form of weight bearing physical activity and exercise that can increase your balance; these will strengthen your bones and keep you from falling in the first place. Eating right, and making sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D are also essential.
The best time to start dealing with osteoporosis is before you have any problems. There are lifestyle choices you can make that will help you build strong bones and prevent deterioration. Osteoporosis was almost unheard of one hundred years ago, so what has changed? Our diet, environment, and lifestyle choices have, so make some adjustments to stay healthy. One big step to take is to stop drinking carbonated beverages like champagne, soda, and even sparkling water. Carbonation leaches calcium from the bones, so stopping your soda habit could be a big step in a healthy direction. Cutting down on protein can be another way to stop calcium being leached, so consult your doctor for what a healthy daily protein intake would be for you. Speaking of calcium, you need enough to have healthy bones, but you need to get the right kind. Calcium carbonate is not a good form, and this is what antacids like TUMS are made of. Calcium citrate and calcium hydroxyapatite are the best forms to take supplementally. Caffeine is another culprit in calcium deficiency, and each cup of coffee can cause you to lose up to 150mg of calcium in your urine. You need to watch the stomach acid reducers you may be taking for heartburn or hiatal hernias. Stomach acid helps to absorb minerals, and blocking stomach acid can lead to osteoporosis. Getting enough vitamin D from the sun helps your body absorb calcium, so make sure you are getting outdoors (with adequate sunscreen, of course). Exercising stimulates your bones and lets them know that they are needed as muscles pull against them, and any weight-bearing exercise can increase bone density. Finally, keep your stress levels to a minimum, because stress raises cortisol levels which can lead to bone loss after an extended period of time. Get enough sleep, meditate, practice yoga or tai chi, and try to surround yourself with peaceful people and environments. Working toward healthy practices that help with bone density will increase your overall health and wellness.
With more than 40 million Americans with osteoporosis or at risk of osteoporosis, it is a problem that needs attention. With recent research pointing towards a correlation between osteoporosis and hearing loss, you should be vigilant to not only try to strengthen your bones, but be on the lookout for hearing impairment. Hearing loss is a serious condition that can impact both your physical and mental wellbeing and can cause isolation, depression, and a lack of interest in your former hobbies. The recommendation is that if you have a decline in bone mineral density, you should have routine audiological assessments to monitor your hearing. If you do have hearing loss, whether from osteoporosis or other causes, Factory Hearing Direct is here for you. We offer the best hearing aids online that we ship directly to your door, with only a hearing exam needed. Take care of your bones to take care of your hearing, and if you have any hearing impairment, look at our large selection of quality hearing aids today!