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Hypothyroidism & Hearing Loss

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Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

Dr. Teague earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Hearing, Speech and Language from Ohio University and his Doctoral Degree in Audiology from The University of Louisville. He is an active member of the American Academy of Audiology and the Ohio Board of Audiology.
Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD

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To understand the importance of treating your hearing loss is to understand how your entire body and all its symptoms are linked together. If you are not able to exercise regularly this can affect so many aspects of your physical and mental health. Much is the same for hearing loss. Understanding the connections and educating yourself on the ailments can help you to prevent a hearing loss and so much more. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause hearing loss, and different thyroid conditions can affect not only hearing loss, but also tinnitus, and balance too.

Hypothyroidism vs. Hyperthyroidism?

The two most common problems in thyroid dysfunction are hormone overproduction (hyperthyroidism) and hormone underproduction (hypothyroidism)

    • Hyperthyroidism is rare, affecting about 1% of the population. It results in the quickening of metabolic processes. Symptoms include nervousness, irritability, weight loss, shaky hands, panic disorder, racing heart and tinnitus. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, an autoimmune response that over-stimulates the thyroid. The tinnitus caused by hyperthyroidism is usually associated with heart rate.
    • Hypothyroidism, also called under active thyroid disease, is a common disorder. With hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is located in the front lower part of your neck. Hormones released by the gland travel through your bloodstream and affect nearly every part of your body, from your heart and brain, to your muscles and skin.

The thyroid controls how your body’s cells use energy from food, a process called metabolism. Among other things, your metabolism affects your body’s temperature, your heartbeat, and how well you burn calories. If you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, your body processes slow down. That means your body makes less energy, and your metabolism becomes sluggish.

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are conditions frequently associated with hypothyroidism. Studies suggest that up to 15% of people diagnosed with thyroid problems will end up with fibromyalgia.

How Are Hearing Loss and Hypothyroidism Linked?

Hypothyroidism is the result of the thyroid not producing enough of the hormone thyroxine. This can cause depression, fatigue, forgetfulness, and weight gain. Thyroxine is also needed for normal development of the auditory system. In fact, about half of the people with low thyroid function have hearing losses.

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published a study linking hearing loss and hypothyroidsm. The research study looked at how untreated hypothyroidism is known to impair hearing. The study found:
Patients were 3x more likely to self-declare hearing loss than that for the reference population.

17% of affected patients required hearing support in early adulthood
Hearing loss was associated with the type of congenital hypothyroidism with disease severity

Hearing loss was mostly bilateral (90%), mild to moderate (96%), of the sensorineural type (76%), and compromised higher frequencies.

Treatment

Standard treatment for hypothyroidism involves daily use of the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Levo-T, Synthroid, others). This oral medication restores adequate hormone levels, reversing the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. You’ll likely start to feel better soon after you start treatment. The medication gradually lowers cholesterol levels elevated by the disease and may reverse any weight gain. Treatment with levothyroxine will likely be life long, but because the dosage you need may change, your doctor is likely to check your TSH level every year

Get your hearing tested annually

Hearing loss is typically not one of the first symptoms for either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. It is therefore possible to diagnose and treat thyroid issues before they impact your hearing. Common symptoms for hypothyroidism can include depression, fatigue, forgetfulness, and weight gain. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include irritability, nervousness, muscle weakness, unexplained weight loss, sleep disturbances, vision problems, and eye irritation.

Your hearing and your health are connected in more ways that we realize. Identifying changes to your hearing may help to identify other issues that you are unaware of. This is why we at Hearing Consultants cannot stress enough, the importance of annual hearing check ups to ensure that your valuable hearing doesn’t slip away. The sooner you catch a hearing loss the sooner we can help you get back on track and maintain the hearing you still have.