January is National Thyroid Awareness month. Thyroid disease can affect a wide range of your body’s functions, including your hearing.
An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, but as much as 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. This is because symptoms of thyroid disease, which can include weight changes, headaches, chronic fatigue, or heart palpitations, are varied and are often confused with other health problems. Certain types of thyroid disease and treatments can also affect your hearing.
Thyroid health affects every cell in your body
The thyroid is a gland that produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. Therefore, any disorder of the thyroid can profoundly affect essential body functions, such as energy level and heartrate. The most common thyroid conditions include:
- Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too much thyroxine hormone. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include irritability, nervousness, muscle weakness, unexplained weight loss, sleep disturbances, vision problems, and eye irritation.
- Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough of this hormone. This can cause fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, and weight gain.
- Goiter, a swelling of the thyroid that can interfere with breathing and swallowing.
- Thyroid cancer is relatively uncommon compared to other forms of cancer. Thankfully, it usually responds well to treatment with surgery or radiation treatment. However, the latter could damage your hearing (more below).
The link between your thyroid and your ears
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism have been linked to hearing loss. Research into why is ongoing, but the following thyroid conditions are known to affect hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance:
- Pendred Syndrome, a genetic disorder which causes early hearing loss in children, also often leads to the development of goiter.
- Grave’s Disease, one of the known causes of hyperthyroidism
- Hashimoto’s Disease, known as a common cause of hypothyroidism
On the other hand, radiation treatment for thyroid cancer may also hearing loss. Studies have shown that patients who undergo radiation therapy for cancer in the head or neck, such as thyroid cancer, appear more likely to experience hearing loss.
If you are experiencing systemic but seemingly random health problems, talk to your doctor about ruling out thyroid disease. Ensuring a healthy supply of thyroid hormone in your body will contribute to your general well-being, including your hearing. And if a required treatment could put your hearing at risk, involve a hearing care professional in your treatment plan who can monitor your hearing along the way in order to minimize damage.