What you should know about Hearing loss and Thyroid disease?

Hearing loss can be debilitating and challenging and leave you feeling devastated, especially if you’re not sure why it has happened. There could be many different reasons for hearing loss and sometimes the connections between this and a specific condition are not that obvious. Thyroid disease, for example, can be a trigger for hearing loss but this is not a link that is often made. 

What is thyroid disease?

The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that is responsible for energy and metabolism. There are a number of conditions that can target the thyroid and impair its function. Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism are two key conditions to note. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition that means that the body produces antibodies that target the thyroid and gradually erode its ability to produce thyroid hormone. A deficiency in thyroid hormone is known as hypothyroidism. The symptoms of Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism include hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, cold hands and feet and depression. The treatment for hypothyroidism is usually thyroid hormone replacement medication. 

How does thyroid disease impact hearing loss?

There are a number of different types of hearing loss that can affect anyone: 

  • Sensorineural - caused by problems in the inner ear or the auditory nerve.
  • Conductive - usually the result of a blockage or injury.
  • Mixed hearing loss - a combination of conductive and sensorineural.

Hearing loss symptoms can vary from person to person but could include ringing in the ears, a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ears, other people sounding slurred or like they are mumbling, difficulty hearing higher pitched sounds or vertigo and dizziness, and experiencing a feeling of being off-balance. For anyone who has thyroid disease, sensorineural hearing loss is likely to be the biggest issue.

Sensorineural hearing loss and thyroid disease

Thyroid disease can actually cause sensorineural - studies established that as early as 1907. However, there still remains a lack of understanding of the connection between the two and how to treat it. Patients with thyroid disease who are experiencing hearing problems can improve with medication, such as a course of levothyroxine therapy. And in some patients, this medication can mean hearing issues are completely reversed. However, even with this treatment some patients who have thyroid disease will still go on to develop some degree of hearing loss.

How does hearing loss happen?

For many patients with thyroid disease, tinnitus-like symptoms (a ringing in the ears) tend to be the first sign of hearing issues - and mild or stronger hearing loss can develop after that. However, one study found that people with hypothyroidism - especially those over the age of 50 - also face the risk of sudden hearing loss. This is where hearing loss occurs over a period of 72 hours. Where this happens, swift treatment can help to regain some hearing function - getting help quickly is key.

For those with thyroid disease there is an increased risk of hearing loss and it’s essential to stay on top of hearing changes and get help when necessary.

Harley Street is the UK's foremost private medical centre which is dedicated to providing high-quality care for your ear, nose, throat, head & neck, and balance-related disorders. Find out more information on how Harley Street ENT can help you here.

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