Individuals with osteoporosis have a 1.76-fold higher risk of developing sudden deafness than those who do not have osteoporosis, a recent study says.

An Endocrine Society news release reports that sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), also known as sudden deafness, is an unexplained, rapid loss of hearing that typically occurs in one ear, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. This can happen at once or during the course of several days, the release says. While about half of the individuals who develop SSHL will spontaneously regain their hearing, it is key to seek treatment immediately. The release adds that about 85% of those who are treated for the condition recover some hearing.

Kai-Jen Tien, MD, Chi Mei Medical Center, Taiwan, one of the study authors, states in the release that increasing evidence indicates that osteoporosis not only impacts bone health, but also the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems.

“Our findings suggest sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) can be another broader health problem connected to osteoporosis,” Tien says.

The release says the retrospective cohort study investigated medical records for 10,660 Taiwan residents who were diagnosed with osteoporosis between 1999 and 2008, and compared them to 31,980 individuals who did not have the condition. Using national insurance records, the researchers analyzed how many participants were diagnosed with sudden deafness by the end 2011.

The results indicate that participants who were diagnosed with osteoporosis had a much higher risk of developing sudden sensorineural hearing loss than the control group. Among the participants who had osteoporosis, the release says 91 were diagnosed with SSHL during the follow-up period. In comparison, the control group, which was triple the size, included 155 individuals who were diagnosed with SSHL.

According to the release, researchers are not certain what biological mechanism is responsible for the link. Tien reportedly theorizes that cardiovascular risk factors, bone demineralization, inflammation and endothelial dysfunction may contribute to the link.

Tien points out in the release that, “More people worldwide are suffering from osteoporosis, and our work shows they are at risk of sensorineural hearing loss as well as bone fracture and other problems. Patients who have osteoporosis should be aware they need to seek medical help immediately if they experience hearing loss.”

The release notes that additional study authors include: Mei-Chen Yeh, Shih-Feng Weng, Chien-Wen Chou, Chwen-Yi Yang, and Jhi-Joung Wang of Chi Mei Medical Center; and Yuan-Chi Shen of Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and Cheng Shiu University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Source: Endocrine Society