Link between hearing impairment and rheumatoid arthritis

Research

Association between rheumatoid arthritis and hearing loss
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A review on the association between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and hearing impairment (HI) was recently published in the Open Rheumatology Journal and highlighted that patients with RA are at a higher risk during the course of their disease.

The review was carried out by researchers from the Odense University Hospital in Denmark. They performed a comprehensive search of all specialized sources (Pubmed, Embase, Cochrane, etc.) to answer the following questions: to what extent are people with RA at a higher risk of HI and what factors are involved.

In their article, they report that sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing impairment in RA patients, with a range of 25% to 72%, depending on the source, while conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss were reported far less frequently. The review also showed that HI in these patients is multifactorial, with the disease and environmental factors playing sometimes interrelated roles.

The researchers found that a large number of disease manifestations may be involved including for instance rheumatoid nodules that may affect the ears, auditory neuropathy due to vasculitis, or destruction of hair cells or the inner ear due to immune complex deposition. Many clinical variables are also likely to play a role, including age, sex, disease activity, and disease duration for example.

Among the many environmental factors, the authors specifically refer to smoking (both through active and passive exposure), alcohol consumption, and exposure to noise. They point out that all of these factors are likely to interact with RA and affect HI, but that no specific evidence or studies are available for RA patients.

Source: Emamifar A, et al. Is Hearing Impairment Associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis? A Review. Open Rheumatology Journal. 2016 Mar 15;10:26-32.

C.S.

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