When the presence of one condition affects or causes another condition to arise, one condition is considered a risk factor or comorbidity for the other. For instance, a higher prevalence of hearing loss in fibromyalgia patients indicates a connection between the two conditions. While the cooccurrence of two conditions does not necessarily equal causation, the relationship is worth considering.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes musculoskeletal pain, issues sleeping, fatigue, poor cognitive processing and mood issues. Researchers believe that the pain from fibromyalgia is the result of the spinal cord incorrectly processing painful and nonpainful symptoms. This means that while there may be no source for the pain, the patient still feels it. Two studies conducted in 2020 and 2021 suggest that fibromyalgia patients may be at an increased risk of developing hearing loss.
The first study conducted in 2020 compared patients diagnosed with new-onset fibromyalgia from 2000 to 2002 with non-fibromyalgia patients. Each set of patients was matched against others with corresponding sex and age. The patients were followed up with from three months after their diagnosis until withdrawal from the study, death, development of hearing loss or completion of the study on December 31, 2013. Analysis of these datasets led the researchers to conclude that patients with fibromyalgia were 1.46 times more likely to develop hearing loss than those without.
The second study from 2021 supported the conclusion of the first. By examining the hearing thresholds of 33 patients with fibromyalgia and 33 without, the study concluded that fibromyalgia patients had higher rates of audiovestibular dysfunction compared to their non-fibromyalgia peers. Autovestibular dysfunction is characterized by the presence of hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo, balance issues and more.
One common theory as to why hearing loss is more common in fibromyalgia patients has to do with the same spinal cord issue that causes pain. Just as the spinal cord misinterprets pain signals, it may incorrectly perceive sounds, resulting in the symptoms of hearing loss.
What Are Your Management Options?
There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, and because of this, managing your hearing loss symptoms themselves is often the best approach. Hearing aids are one great option to address hearing loss. The small but technologically advanced devices collect and amplify important sounds like speech and essential background noise to help compensate for hearing loss. With the devices, interactions as small as ordering your favorite winter latte at Black Elephant Coffee will feel much easier.
To learn more about your options for managing hearing loss, contact Sound Advice today to make an appointment with one of our specialists.