Women with low bone density at higher risk of hearing loss, study finds

July 15, 2021
Women with low bone density at higher risk of hearing loss, study finds

An extensive study of nearly 144,000 women has revealed that risk of hearing loss was amplified by up to 40% in study participants with osteoporosis or low bone density (LBD). Led by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston – and as part of the Conservation of Hearing Study (CHEARS) – the study also found that bisphosphonates, the primary medication used to prevent fractures in people with reduced bone density, did not moderate the risk of hearing loss.

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Using data sampled from two large cohorts of female registered nurses in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS and NHS II), established in 1976 and 1989, respectively, the researchers examined self-reported hearing loss that was moderate or worse in severity, every two years; the researchers additionally incorporated the CHEARS Audiometry Assessment Arm to analyse the nurses’ audiometric thresholds (a measure of hearing sensitivity based on the loudness of sound) in the study.

They eventually found that women who had been diagnosed osteoporosis or LBD had a greater chance of developing hearing loss: out of the two most common types of osteoporosis-related fractures, a history of vertebral fracture was associated with up to a 40% higher risk of hearing loss however the same was not true for hip fractures. Bisphosphonates-based medication meanwhile did not appear to alter the risk of hearing loss.

According to Dr. Sharon Curhan of the Channing Division of Network Medicine at the Brigham, “The differing findings between these skeletal sites may reflect differences in the composition and metabolism of the bones in the spine and in the hip.” These findings could provide new insight into the changes in the bone that surrounds the middle and inner ear that may contribute to hearing loss.

The other researchers hypothesise that “abnormal bone remodeling and changes in the pathways involved in maintaining bone homeostasis may influence the integrity of the bone that protects the nerves and structures involved in hearing, or alter ion and fluid metabolism in the cochlea.” The cochlea is the main structure involved in hearing, located in the bony labyrinth of the inner ear.

“Osteoporosis and low bone density may be important contributors to aging-related hearing loss, [but] building lifelong healthy diet and lifestyle habits could provide important benefits for protecting bone and hearing health in the future.” Dr. Curhan said.

Although adult onset hearing loss is typically irreversible, eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight may help reduce one’s risk of hearing loss, the researchers concluded.

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Category: Education, Features

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