As we age, our senses naturally become duller, but for some, this loss of vision or hearing happens much more quickly and much more severely. In fact, a recent national health survey found that 65 percent of adults over the age of 70 in the United States have hearing loss. It is known that people with hearing loss will continue to lose their hearing more and more as time goes on, which can result in difficulties communicating and a lower quality of life.
Hearing loss has been previously associated with comorbidities, including dementia, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. While gout has not been connected to hearing loss in the past, the condition shares many risk factors with hearing loss, including older age, being a male, and cardiovascular disease.
A new study has now connected gout with an increased risk of hearing loss in the elderly. Gout is the most common form of arthritis in the older population, caused by the excess formation of uric acid crystals in the joints of the hands and feet.
The researchers analyzed the data of 1.71 million adults in the United States. To gather the data, the researchers took a five percent random sample from Medicare records of adults 65 and over between 2006 and 2012. They compared the rates of hearing loss in patients with gout and patients without gout at the outset of the study and again at its conclusion.
Gout Increases Hearing Loss by 44 Percent
There were 89,409 new cases of hearing loss by the end of the study. The researchers noted that people with hearing loss tended to be older, were less likely to be black, and had a higher likelihood of having a comorbidity than those without hearing loss.
After the analysis, the researchers found that participants with gout had a higher incidence rate of hearing loss. Gout was associated with a 44 percent increase in a patient’s risk of developing hearing loss. The data were adjusted for demographics, medical comorbidities, and the commonly used medications for cardiovascular disease and gout.
This study did have several limitations as to the validity of its results, however. The results apply only to those who are 65 or older. Since the data were collected from a national database, the researchers did not have access to laboratory information of the participants, including oxidative stress and inflammation. For this reason, the findings of this study are correlational only and do not reveal any of the underlying mechanisms behind the relationship between gout and hearing loss. The researchers do speculate that inflammation and oxidative stress may play a role, however, and future studies should focus on clarifying this relationship.
This study is one of the first to define the relationship between gout and hearing loss in the population of adults over the age of 65. The researchers concluded, “Future studies should explore whether hyperuricemia, or inflammation, or oxidative stress play a role in this association, and whether treatments that target these pathways can reduce the role of hearing loss in elderly with gout.”
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