Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and issues with sleep, cognitive abilities, and mood. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia affects the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and nonpainful signals, resulting in amplified pain in the body.
Many cases of fibromyalgia often begin after a big event such as surgery, infection, psychological stress or physical trauma, whereas other cases may grow over time with no identifiable trigger.
Fibromyalgia often occurs with other conditions known as comorbidities. Comorbidities of fibromyalgia may include but are not limited to:
- Temporomandibular joint disorders
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Painful bladder syndrome
- Anxiety and depression
- Hearing loss
Let’s examine why those with fibromyalgia may be experiencing hearing loss.
What Causes Hearing Loss in Patients With Fibromyalgia?
One 2020 study examined data from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database to determine if patients with fibromyalgia were at an increased risk of developing hearing loss than those without. Patients with new-onset fibromyalgia from 2000 to 2002 were compared with a group of non-fibromyalgia patients that matched their age and sex. Patients were followed up three months after their diagnosis until death, withdrawal from the study, hearing loss development or December 31, 2013. The results of the study showed that patients with fibromyalgia were 1.46 times more likely to develop hearing loss than those without.
This 2020 study was further supported by a 2021 study testing the hearing thresholds of 33 fibromyalgia patients against 33 non-fibromyalgia volunteers. The 2021 study found that middle ear resonance frequency values were significantly decreased in patients with fibromyalgia compared to those of their non-fibromyalgia peers.
One common theory as to why the relationship between fibromyalgia and hearing loss exists has to do with central nervous system abnormality in auditory processing. With fibromyalgia, your nervous system tells you that you’re in pain, even if no source of the pain exists. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make the pain any less real. Hearing loss may occur for a similar reason. Your nervous system can affect your ability to correctly perceive sounds, resulting in the symptoms of hearing loss. Although you may not have physical ear damage, your brain can struggle to hear sounds like your favorite barista calling your name at Honest Coffee Roasters, making the hearing loss symptoms feel frustrating.
What Can You Do?
Fibromyalgia has no known cure, but many of its symptoms can be managed with the help of a specialist. If you have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia or have lived with it for a long time, consider scheduling a hearing test as soon as possible. Establishing your baseline hearing levels will help your audiologist identify growing hearing loss and begin a treatment path as early as possible.
For more information on caring for your hearing health, contact North Alabama ENT Associates today to make an appointment with one of our specialists.