The human body is a tightly knit web of systems and functions, and you might be surprised at the chain reaction connecting one part of the body to another. Past research has demonstrated that hearing loss is connected to higher rates of dementia, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, accidental falls, and return visits to the hospital to name just a few. Although it’s not as simple as hearing loss causing these other conditions, we know that underlying factors in the body make these connections possible. A recent study has unearthed another factor connecting hearing loss to a negative health effect: gout. Let’s take a moment to understand what gout is, who is at risk, and what hearing loss might have to do with such a seemingly disconnected phenomenon in the body. These connections within the body are a reminder that the entire human organism can become a domino rally if just one element is weakened. Getting assistance for hearing loss is a way to strengthen our communication ability when hearing loses some functionality.
Gout and Arthritis
Of the many forms of arthritis, gout is the most common. An excess formation of uric acid crystals in the joints of the hands and feet can limit mobility, dexterity, and fine motor skills. This build-up of crystals can be quite painful, making it difficult to do the simple tasks that were taken for granted in the past. Not only can those with gout find it difficult to use utensils and to do tasks that require manual precision, they can find more basic tasks such as cooking, eating, and writing become difficult as well. Researchers are interested in learning more about not only the causes and cures for gout but also what other factors in the body can be related.
Gout and Hearing Loss
In order to better understand how gout is connected to other factors in the body, researchers have used large data sets to discover some surprising interrelationships. In a recent study, researchers took used “big data” methods to aggregate a dataset of 1.7 million Americans. They used Medicare records from 2006 to 2012 to get a very large sample of 5 percent of the population. That dataset is large enough to be representative of the population in general. What they found was quite surprising. Those who had gout were 44 percent more likely to have hearing loss than those who did not have gout. This risk factor took into account other factors that were already known to cause higher rates of hearing loss, such as demographics, medical comorbidities, and medications that are commonly taken for cardiovascular disease and gout. It seems like there is something about gout in particular that is related to higher rates of hearing loss.
Explaining the Connection
Although big data methods are good at finding surprising connections between factors in our health and within the body, they are less equipped for explaining how these connections work. Without a complete medical history, biometrics, survey responses, and more in-depth analysis, it is impossible to know why those with gout were so much more likely to have hearing loss than their counterparts. Although they cannot use big data to solve this puzzle, researchers do have some hypotheses about the connection. They speculate that inflammation and oxidative stress are a common bond between gout and hearing loss.
When a person has gout, the oxidative stress experienced in the extremities might connect with hearing ability. The tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear known as stereocilia are highly sensitive to changes in the ears and bloodstream. In other cases, we know that oxygen depletion in the blood can cause irreversible damage to the stereocilia, so researchers wonder if something similar is underlying the connection with gout, as well. As researchers continue to explore this connection between gout and hearing loss, one this is certain. The sooner you are able to detect hearing loss, the better able you will be to get treatment and to improve your communication ability.
Rather than putting off getting a hearing test, why not contact our offices today to set up your exam? Your hearing ability is connected to the rest of the body and mind, so don’t delay taking care of your hearing needs!