Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) can be a very painful and debilitating form of Arthritis. It occurs when the tissue lining the joints becomes inflamed and bumps form in pressure points (knees, elbows, shoulders), which distort the joints. Areas that are most likely to become painful are the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and feet. This condition can disturb a person’s sleep due to pain/stiffness and there is usually a general report of fatigue.
When I talk to patients with hearing loss in my practice, we often talk about fatigue. When we are fatigued, our hearing is affected. A study in Laryngoscope did not find that those with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher incidence of hearing loss. But what it did find is that those with the condition report more difficulty with their hearing.
Another possible link between RA and hearing loss comes from the medications used to treat RA. A study conducted in 2012 found that women who took acetaminophen and ibuprofen two or more days a week had a higher incidence of hearing loss. The Cleveland Clinic has a very thorough web page on RA that lists what medications can be used to treat the different symptoms of RA. Those listed for pain and inflammation have side effects that may include hearing loss, as they are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and most list hearing loss as a side effect.
Rheumatoid Arthritis, Medication and Hearing Loss
We may see RA and hearing loss as a “chicken and egg” problem, but knowing that a person has arthritis and examining the medications they are taking is very important. Those with RA can be monitored for changes in hearing and helped in the type of aural rehabilitation (even if it only encompasses communication strategies) we use.