Did you know there’s a link between your thyroid and hearing health? Most people know the thyroid regulates the body’s metabolism and that different forms of thyroid disease can lead to weight gain or weight loss, among other symptoms. Less familiar are the other ways thyroid disease can affect the body. Among the side effects are headaches, heart palpitations, chronic fatigue, and yes, hearing loss.
As January is National Thyroid Awareness Month, we’re taking a closer look at the connection between thyroid disorders and hearing loss, and how you can protect your hearing by keeping your thyroid healthy.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of the neck below your larynx. Part of the endocrine system, the thyroid secretes hormones that regulate the way the body uses energy. Specifically, the thyroid uses iodine from food to produce two hormones (triiodothyronine and thyroxine) more simply known as T3 and T4, respectively. With thyroid disease, the gland will produce either too much or too little of T3 and T4 and lead to the side effects mentioned above.
How is thyroid disease linked to hearing loss?
The exact connection between certain thyroid diseases and hearing loss remains a mystery, but a definite link exists. Several different thyroid disorders, such as Pendred syndrome, Grave’s disease, and Hashimoto’s disease are known to cause or contribute to hearing loss.
Thyroid cancer can also lead to hearing loss, though more indirectly. One of the possible side effects of radiation used to treat thyroid cancer, and other cancers of the head and neck, is hearing loss. Additionally, cisplatin, a chemotherapy medication used to treat thyroid cancer, is known to be ototoxic, or damaging to your hearing. The drug can accumulate in the inner ear and buildup can lead to hearing loss.
Keeping your thyroid healthy
While thyroid disease can affect anyone, there are certain things you can do to keep yourself healthy and your thyroid functioning properly.
Healthy eating habits: Eating produce high in antioxidants like blueberries, tomatoes, and squash can help maintain a healthy thyroid. However, consider reducing consumption of raw cruciferous vegetables (like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts), since some medical studies indicate very large quantities can have a negative effect on your thyroid. You should also avoid the refined sugars and starches found in junk food and replace them with more whole foods.
Increase your iodine intake: Iodine is a mineral essential in the production of thyroid hormones. A deficiency can lead to a decrease in production of T3 and T4, triggering hypothyroidism and goiters. Iodine is found naturally in seafood, seaweed, eggs, and dairy products, or in iodized salt, which is fortified with iodine. Be sure to talk to your doctor about proper iodine levels, since too much of it can be harmful.
Take other supplements: In addition to iodine other vitamins and minerals contribute to a healthy thyroid. These include Vitamin A, Vitamin D, iron, and selenium. Again, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about whether you have a deficiency and if supplements are recommended.
Exercise: Regular exercise is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and thyroid health. Moderately intense aerobic exercise for 30 minutes per day five days a week can improve blood circulation and increase the production of T3 and T4. Exercise can also counteract the effects of thyroid disease by boosting your metabolism.
While many factors contribute to hearing loss, the link between thyroid disease and hearing health is clear. Maintaining a healthy thyroid is one more thing you can do to protect your ears. If you already have thyroid disease and worry about its impact on your hearing, contact a hearing care professional who can evaluate your hearing and recommend any necessary treatment.