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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Hearing Loss may be Unrelated

March 6th, 2006

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Hearing Loss may be Unrelated


The Mayo Clinic completed a study recently that found people with Rheumatoid arthritis do not have an increased risk of hearing loss compared to the general population.  This contrasts previous research that found a link between rheumatoid arthritis and hearing problems.  This research report will be presented today at the American Auditory Society annual meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"This is very good news for rheumatoid arthritis patients," said Eric Matteson, M.D., Mayo Clinic rheumatologist and the senior study researcher. "Patients with rheumatoid arthritis actually have preserved hearing and are no more susceptible to hearing loss than those who do not have the disease; there is no measurable difference with standard testing. This was surprising. I expected to see more hearing loss in rheumatoid arthritis patients."


The researchers measured hearing in 29 rheumatoid arthritis patients between the ages 40 to 69.  The rheumatoid patients had to have been diagnosed for at least 5 years to participate.  They recruited 30 patients without rheumatoid arthritis in the same age range as a comparison.  The participants were asked a series of questions and had their hearing tested.  There were 17 of the 29 rheumatoid arthritis participants that had at least one sound wave frequency which was abnormal.  The control group without rheumatoid had 14 out of 30 that had at least one sound wave frequency that was abnormal.

"Hearing loss can be a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, but it doesn't seem to be more of a problem than in the general population," Dr. Matteson said.


There was a phenomenon that rheumatoid arthritis patients thought they had more hearing problems, especially when they had more disabilities because of the disease.

"Perhaps this is due to severe disability and thus an overall feeling of helplessness," said Dr. Matteson. "People who have profound disability may generalize their disabilities to other areas of the body -- they just feel worse overall."


The rheumatoid arthritis patients were more often found to have problems with their inner ear hearing and sensorineural hearing loss.  This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the nerves that transmit sounds to the brain.  The researchers are not certain if an immune attack would cause the hearing loss, or if it was caused by noise exposure.  The researcher thought that possibly the prescription medicine hydroxychloroquine might have caused the hearing loss in some of the rheumatoid patients.  The patients that took hydroxychloroquine in this study were found to have more hearing problems.

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Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication

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