Parkinson’s Disease affects the cochlea (inner ear)

By: Dr. Nimet Adam
It is well known that aging is related to hearing loss. However, Parkinson’s disease also affects the cochlea, which is the sensory organ of hearing.
The important neurotransmitter dopamine, the absence of which causes Parkinson’s disease, helps to protect the cochlea from noise exposure. Inadequate dopamine can lead to damage to the cochlea and result in hearing loss.
By using data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Program, the Taiwanese research team studied nearly 5,000 patients aged 65 or older, who were newly diagnosed with hearing loss between 2000 and 2010.  With a comparison group of nearly 20,000 people without hearing loss, the research team investigated the incidence of Parkinson’s disease by the end of 2010 in both groups.
The study, conducted by the Taiwanese research team, demonstrated that incidences of Parkinson’s disease were 1.77 times more likely in a group of patients with hearing loss compared to a non-hearing loss group: 3.11 vs. 1.76 per 1,000 people respectively.
This study was published in The European Journal of Neurology and was a collaboration between researchers from Taichung Tzu Chi General Hospital, China Medical University and College of Health Science in Taiwan.
Since Parkinson’s Disease affects speech the voice may get softer, breathy, or hoarse, causing others to have difficulty hearing what is said. Speech may also be slurred. If you are the caregiver for someone who has Parkinson’s disease, hearing your loved one may become a problem. It is important for both the person with Parkinson’s disease and the caregiver to have their hearing evaluated so that communication is not compromised.
Sources: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov and www.viartis.net

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