Ear sensitivity is one symptom in the long list of symptoms of hypothyroidism you have to look out for. Have you ever experienced sudden sensitivity to sound, fluctuating hearing abilities, ringing in your ears, or hearing loss?
Then it is time to consult your doctor and hearing care professional to talk about treatment. Make an appointment and have your thyroid checked as soon as possible if you experience any of the symptoms listed below.
Ear Sensitivity Due to Hypothyroidism
What is hypothyroidism? It is a term used to describe underactive thyroid glands. They don’t produce enough hormones the body needs.
Tinnitus may be a symptom of an underlying condition such as thyroid dysfunction. A lot of people diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction experience ringing in their ears.
Whenever you hear that ringing sound in your ear and other noises not coming from your surroundings, you could be experiencing tinnitus. Tinnitus is a medical expression for this sensation.
You can either hear it from one ear, both ears, or the middle of the head. Sometimes the noise can be low, medium, or high-pitched.
2. Fluctuating Hearing
Hypothyroidism can also affect your actual hearing ability by alternately changing it from sudden noise sensitivity to weak hearing. Sometimes, you will be able to hear low volume sounds from across the room, but the next minute, you may be having a hard time listening to a friend in front of you.
3. Sensitive Hearing
Another symptom of hypothyroidism is sensitive hearing or hyperacuity. Hyperacusis is a form of acute hearing where you can hear almost everything, even the most low-pitched sounds.
There are cases when sudden sensitivity to sound caused by hypothyroidism can also lead to deafness. Much like explosions can give you temporary hearing loss, constant sensitivity to noise can lead to deafness.
4. Vestibular Abnormalities
Vestibular abnormalities have been found constant in some patients diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease. The vestibular system is part of the inner ear and brain that controls balance and eye movements.
Damage to your vestibular system can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, ear sensitivity, and sudden loud sounds that can lead to vertigo, dizziness, or imbalance.
5. Ear Pressure
Have you ever experienced that weird feeling in the ear similar to a popping feeling when you are driving up to higher altitudes?
Hypothyroidism can create an opposite effect causing your your eardrums are to feel like they are being sucked inward. This pressure in the ears and head can also be a sign of an underlying thyroid disorder.
The Connection Between Ear Sensitivity and Hearing
Why are people with hypothyroidism prone to ear sensitivity in the first place?
In reality, no study officially confirms the relationship or fully understands the link. Some types of research point out the association among autoimmune diseases.
A 2010 study in Maedica reported that those with symptoms or diagnoses of an autoimmune condition may also experience other kinds of autoimmune diseases.
It doesn’t show a cause-and-effect relationship. However, a person with mild hearing loss or eardrum (tympanic membrane) issues due to an autoimmune ear disease may increase their risk of hypothyroidism and vice versa.
Another possible reason is the link between thyroid hormones and the cochlea.
The cochlea is the snail-shaped organ in the inner ear that receives the sound vibrations. It’s the thousands of hair cells, though, that convert these sounds into nerve impulses the brain receives and interprets.
In the 2018 mice research, the cochlea needs thyroid hormones to develop properly.
Further, the animals with genetic mutations affecting thyroid hormone transporters experienced problems in the maturity of the auditory system. It also resulted in the degeneration of the cochlear hair cells.
Other Possible Causes of Hearing Loss and Sensitivity
Hypothyroidism isn’t the only possible explanation for ear sensitivity and hearing loss. These can also occur due to the following conditions:
- Central auditory processing disorder, a hearing problem common among school-aged children characterized by the poor coordination between the brain and ears
- Meniere’s disease, an auditory condition affecting one of the inner ears
- Canal dehiscence, an opening in the bone that covers one of the inner ear’s canals
- Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ syndrome, pain that affects the lower jaw, which may be due to facial nerve injury
Other common reasons may be:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Neurological conditions or damage to the auditory nerves
- Misophonia or poor tolerance to specific noises
- Prolonged or long-term exposure to loud noises
- Chronological and biological aging (it worsens the person’s ability to hear higher frequency range)
- Anxiety (studies associate it with sensorineural hearing loss, which affects the inner ear)
Note: People with hypothyroidism may also have anxiety disorders or depression. Meanwhile, ear sensitivity may lead to social isolation, which can worsen symptoms of anxiety or depression.
How to Enhance Hearing Protection
Because ear sensitivity can occur for a variety of reasons, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.
If you suspect a connection with a thyroid issue, seek an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in the endocrine system, particularly hormones.
You may undergo a series of blood and auditory tests to confirm the connection. Usually, to deal with hormone problems, the doctor may prescribe medications or hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
For a more holistic approach to treating your ear sensitivity, LIV Health offers a personalized healthcare plan.
You can also reduce the symptoms of your ear problem by:
- Limiting exposure to noises with high decibel levels (the ideal maximum decibel is below 85 decibels, which is the loudness of normal conversations)
- Undergoing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) if the reason is due to mental health issues like PTSD or anxiety
- Opting for sound therapy or ear retraining such as exposure to pink noise or white noise to improve hearing response
- Treating the root cause of hypothyroidism, including mineral and vitamin deficiencies
What is cognitive-behavioral therapy? It is a type of psychotherapy that emphasizes the changing of a person’s negative thoughts or behavior.
What is pink noise? It is a color noise deeper than white noise, such as the rustling of leaves. Since the noise spreads, it doesn’t hurt the ears.
Hypothyroidism affects the entire body. It is no surprise that it affects even the ears causing hearing loss, tinnitus, and vestibular abnormalities. Consult a hearing care professional to help you manage the symptoms with the right kind of treatment.
Have you experienced hearing problem symptoms due to hypothyroidism? Share your experience with us in the comments below.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 28, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.