Autoimmune Disorders and Hearing Loss

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Autoimmune Disorders and Hearing Loss

Written by: Meredith Resnick, M.A., CCC-A


The immune system. Our body’s defense system. Did you know that the key players in our immune system are the tonsils, lymphatic system, white blood cells, and spleen? The best way to help your immune system stay strong is letting it do its job.

Immune system disorders can cause abnormally low activity or over activity of the immune system.  In cases of immune system over activity, the body attacks and damages its own tissues (autoimmune diseases).  Immune deficiency diseases decrease the body’s ability to fight invaders causing vulnerability to infections.  Some autoimmune disorders that can affect the ear or hearing include: Cogan’s Syndrome, relapsing polychondritis, polyarteritis nodose (PAN), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), ulcerative colitis (UC), sjorgren’s syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). 

            *Cogan’s syndrome is an inflammation of the eye and hearing and balance deficits.  The inflammation in the eye and ear are due to the patient’s own immune system producing antibodies that attack the inner ear and eye tissue.  Once hearing loss has occurred, medication may not improve hearing, thus hearing aids or cochlear implantation may be used.

*Relapsing polychondritis is a condition characterized by inflammation and deterioration of cartilage.  Inflammation of the cartilage of the ear is a specific symptom of the disease which usually lasts a few days or more and then resolves spontaneously and may recur over time.

*Polyarteritis nodosa (PAN) is a rare disease that results from blood vessel inflammation causing injury to organ systems.  The most commonly affected areas include the nerves, intestinal tract, heart, and joints.  However, granulomatosis with polyangiitis may affect your skin, eyes, ears, kidneys and other organs.

*Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)- also known as lupus is a n autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in the body.  Common symptoms include painful and swollen joints, fever, chest pain, hair loss, mouth ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, tiredness, and rash.  Kastaniousdakis et al (2002) and Sperling et al. (1998) have reported that patients with SLE may complain from auditory symptoms.

*Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a condition that results in inflammation and ulcers of the colon and rectum.

*Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease characterized by dryness of the mouth and eyes.  Individual’s with sjogren’s syndrome often complain of ringing in the ears, mild hearing loss, or ear pain which is caused by inflammation of the nasal cavity blocking the Eustachian tube.

*Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects mostly your joints.  Some people complain of hearing loss.  There may be several reasons for the hearing loss.  Patients taking NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) as well as the DMARD (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug) can develop tinnitus and decreased hearing.

Now knowing what you know here are some tips to help keep your immune system strong:

1) eat lots of fruits and vegetables 2) exercise regularly 3) get plenty of rest  4) have your hearing checked annually.


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