Hypothyroidism & Hearing Loss

Hypothyroidism & Hearing Loss

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Related Diseases, Research by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

The body is a complex web of connections and cause-effect relationships. Although medical and human sciences have discovered a lot about the inner workings of these relationships, much remains to be learned about how one part of the body affects another. In fact, seemingly disconnected parts of the body can be quite dependent on one another, particularly when you consider larger mechanisms that cause indirect relationships. Such is the case with hearing ability. Our hearing might seem to be connected to systems such as the cardiovascular or respiratory systems, but research has shown that a deficiency, illness, blockage, or limitation in one system can set off a chain reaction affecting another. Let’s consider the relationship between hearing ability and another crucial bodily function: the endocrine system. Specifically, the thyroid gland is an essential regulating factor in other parts of the body, releasing hormones to control metabolism and other functioning. When the thyroid is not functioning at its best, a ripple effect can affect hearing ability, as well. Understanding how each system of the body works is essential to knowing what interactions and mechanisms might connect them to one another. 

Endocrine and Thyroid Functioning

The thyroid is a gland that sits at the front of your throat just below the Adam’s apple. When it is working normally, you can’t feel it through the skin, but it is working below the surface to control bodily functions as disparate as breathing, heart rate, central and peripheral nervous systems, body weight and many others. Although the thyroid is in control of so much bodily functioning, it is also sensitive to changes and can experience a wide range of malfunctions. For instance, a goiter is a swollen thyroid gland. This condition can be harmless, but it can also impair breathing in some cases. Thyroiditis refers to inflammation of the thyroid, often resulting from a viral infection or autoimmune disorder. Two other thyroid conditions are of particular interest: hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. These twin conditions refer to an over- or under-performing thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism makes the gland produce an excess of hormones, while hypothyroidism refers to an underproduction of those hormones. In that latter case, hearing ability can be affected.

Hypothyroidism and Hearing Loss

For starters, nearly half of people with hypothyroidism have some form of hearing loss. That number is much higher than the general population, so experts are curious to understand more about the relationship between them. The hormones produced by the thyroid are used to regulate many bodily functions, including the heart, brain, and ears. Some experts speculate that the relationship has to do with the oxygen supplied to the ears by the cardiovascular system. The tiny, hairlike organelles of the inner ear called stereocilia are sensitive to differences in frequencies. That same sensitivity makes them prone to becoming bent, broken, or otherwise damaged when they are exposed to too much noise or when they don’t get what they need to thrive. Oxygen and other nutrients are part of that process of sustaining the stereocilia, so researchers wonder if hypothyroidism gets in the way of the ears receiving what they need. 

Holistic Treatment

If you know that you have hypothyroidism, it is wise to get a hearing test. Although you may not have hearing loss, you might have a gradual loss of ability that you don’t notice right away. Getting treatment for hearing loss is essential to your future health and wellbeing. Just as the body is an interconnected whole that requires each system to function for the rest to do so, your hearing can lead to a ripple effect in other bodily systems, as well. When hearing loss goes untreated, you can experience a range of health effects for your physical, mental, and cognitive wellbeing. On the contrary, getting treatment can bring a wide range of benefits for your health, relationships, and feelings of wellbeing. If you are interested in getting started toward treatment for hearing loss, the first step is to get a hearing test. This diagnostic exam will let us know if you have hearing loss and what treatment can help you if needed. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment for your holistic health!