RA has been affecting hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide for years, and many people have become well familiarized with the effects and symptoms that RA can bring. One lesser known, but just as harmful effect is that RA can lead to hearing problems. Read on to find out how RA causes hearing loss and what patients can do to prevent it from happening.
The effects of RA on the ears
Most people do not consider how RA affects their ear tissue, cartilage, and bones. But it can affect the ears just as much as other parts of the body. Researchers have recently released a study that describes how RA can affect the ears. According to the study, those who have had RA for a long period of time can become more at risk for hearing loss and other issues. One interesting finding pointed out that RA patients who consumed alcohol regularly were much more likely to have ear problems than RA patients who didn't drink.
The study did not propose to have completely figured out or solve the effects of RA on hearing. They emphasized that they could only establish a correlation between RA and hearing loss, not a direct causation. They are also unsure precisely what mechanisms and factors cause RA to affect the ears in this way.
While these studies are still preliminary in nature, they are important to consider for future treatment plans. After all, it is said that up to 75 percent of RA patients experience some type of ear loss in addition to RA. It might also be helpful to talk to your doctor about possible side effects of each treatment, as some studies have shown that certain RA medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen could lead to hearing damage as well.
Could inflammation be a factor?
While there is no conclusive evidence showing inflammation having an effect on hearing, it stands to reason that inflamed tissue and cartilage in the ear may cause blockages that can lead to hearing loss.
How to prevent hearing loss
Whether or not there is a concrete link between RA and hearing loss, it is still useful to know how to prevent hearing loss if there is an increased risk for RA patients. Below are a few helpful tips to ensuring prime and pristine ear health.
Pay attention to noise levels - The most common cause of hearing loss is exposure to incredibly loud noises. Contrary to popular belief, even one instance of exposure to loud noise can cause permanent ear problems. Essentially, loud noises destroy delicate ear cells which damages your hearing (and at times can even cause the development of tinnitus, or a permanent ringing of the ears). If you know you are going to be exposed to loud noises, whether it is at your job, during yard work, at a party, or at a concert, you should be prepared. Get a pair of ear plugs to take with you (and maybe even a spare just in case). There are ear plugs designed specifically for all types of events like sporting events or concerts, so you can still enjoy the same sounds at a slightly lower volume. Finding a good set of ear plugs and wearing them when you will be exposed will go a long way in preventing future hearing loss. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to shout to talk to someone at arm's length, then the noise is probably dangerous to your hearing.
Turn the music down - Many people think that hearing loss is something that just happens and can't be helped. Others think it is a condition reserved for the elderly or those who are genetically predisposed to it. None of these things are true. In fact, many younger people have been affected by hearing loss due to being exposed to loud noises when listening to music, going to a club, or seeing a concert. Obviously, you can't affect how loud music is at a concert, but you can change how you are listening to your music at home. One particularly bad habit of many music listeners is to turn it up so loud that it drowns out background noise. While that may seem convenient, it likely means that you turned the music up to dangerous levels. What many people don't realize is that your ears will adjust to lower volumes eventually, focusing in on the music you want to hear. In fact, you can take extra steps to protect your hearing by turning down your music slightly every few minutes. Because your ears adjust to the new volumes, you will be able to listen to quieter music while still being able to hear everything you want to.
Use noise-cancelling headphones - Some people may read the above paragraph and complain that lower volumes make their music drowned out by background noise. Noise-cancelling headphones are a great way to fix that. Not only will they cancel out white noise that bothers you, they also allow you to listen at low volumes that are safest for your hearing.
Be careful in the car - Listening to the radio has become very common among commuters across the country. After all, you need something to keep you sane while hitting morning traffic. But experts say that listening to the radio is actually one of the highest risks to your hearing. This is because the noise is in a confined space, so the sound is not going to be as mitigated or reduced when coming from the radio. Most people have their radio turned up much louder than necessary. You can still listen to your radio at lower volumes and you likely won't notice the difference after a while. Most importantly, you and your ears will be thankful you turned the volume down in the long run.
Give your ears a rest - No matter what we say in this article, you are likely going to find yourself exposed to loud noises at some point. Whether you experience sudden noises that you have nothing to do with (like an ambulance siren or a motorcycle zipping by) or forget to wear headphones to a concert or club, there is a way to protect your hearing from further damage. If you get exposed to loud noise, your ears will become weaker and more prone to damage, which means they need a period of recovery time. During this time, you should make everything as quiet as you can and avoid particularly noisy areas. Experts say that your ears need around 16 hours of recovery for every two hours you spend at places like a club or concert. While that may seem like a lot, most of the time you will be going to places like these at night and (hopefully) you will spend half of the recovery time sleeping it off. Plan so that you have a day to rest after going somewhere with abnormally loud noise levels.
The jury is still out on whether there is a causal relationship between the development of RA and hearing loss. While there is no need to worry just yet, protecting your hearing is important no matter how long you have been dealing with RA. As with most aspects of the condition, it is always better to be safe than sorry. For more information on RA developments, risks, and treatments, be sure to visit the rest of our website.