Hearing loss and its relationship to Parkinson’s disease (PD) was the subject of discussion at a Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) support group meeting at the Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale, California. Audiologist Dr. Christine Throm explained that hearing loss can be a silent side effect for those who have PD.
Dr. Throm referred to a large 2014 study from Taiwan to explain how PD affects a sensory organ of hearing in the inner ear called the Cochlea. The study showed that people with Parkinson’s disease are 1.7 times more likely to have hearing loss than people without the disease.
The neurotransmitter dopamine that is lacking in people with Parkinson’s disease functions as protection for the Cochlea, and protects it from noise exposure. Protection of the Cochlea is compromised as a result of the lack of dopamine in PD patients.
Hearing Loss and Falling
People with Parkinson’s are at high risk of falling due to problems with balance, rigidity, and slowness of movement – the primary motor symptoms of PD.
Dr. Throm cited a recent study by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institute on Aging that found hearing loss significantly increases the risk of falls. The study showed that a mild degree of hearing loss tripled the risk of an accidental fall, with the risk increasing by 140 percent for every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss. Older adults with hearing loss report experienced falls almost three times more often than those with normal hearing.
Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline
Untreated hearing loss is associated with poorer cognitive function and can contribute to dementia. In older adults diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the rate of cognitive decline is faster when a person has untreated hearing loss. Research from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging indicates that the brain becomes smaller with age and the shrinkage of the brain seems to be fast-tracked in older adults with hearing loss.
Risk for Depression with Hearing Loss
There is also an increased risk for depression in adults with untreated hearing loss, especially among older women.
Risk for Hearing Loss with Medications
Medication can cause hearing loss such as the 40-80% of individuals who take the drug Cisplatin who have had hearing loss after taking the medication for cancer.
Hearing Loss and Dementia
Seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing, a study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging researchers suggests.
Hearing Loss Prevention
To address hearing loss, Dr. Throm recommends a test once a year if you have trouble hearing in restaurants, or experience ringing, buzzing, hissing, crickets, humming or you have other hearing issues. For hearing loss prevention she recommends that an exam every two years is sufficient if you have normal hearing.
Dr. Throm attained her Doctoral degree in Audiology from Arizona School of Health Sciences. She is the founder of Los Gatos Audiology, which offers comprehensive hearing evaluations, hearing aid consultations and fittings, hearing aid services and more for issues with hearing.
Hearing Loss Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss
Hearing loss may be a non-motor feature of Parkinson’s disease in older people in Taiwan https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24506292
Hearing loss linked to an increased risk of falls https://www.campaignforbetterhearing.org/hearing-research/2017/hearing-loss-linked-to-an-increased-risk-of-fallsParkinson’s disease and hearing loss – Hear-it.org https://www.hear-it.org/parkinsons-disease-may-also-result-hearing-loss
Auditory Processing Abilities of Parkinson’s Disease Patients https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5435898/
Hearing impairment in Parkinson’s disease: Expanding the nonmotor phenotype https://www.researchgate.net/publication/231862911_Hearing_impairment_in_Parkinson%27s_disease_Expanding_the_nonmotor_phenotype
Untangling the Link Between Hearing Loss and Depression https://journals.lww.com/thehearingjournal/fulltext/2014/07000/Untangling_the_Link_Between_Hearing_Loss_and.2.aspx
Study Identifies Potential Cause of Hearing Loss from Cisplatin https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2018/cisplatin-hearing-loss