Your Headache May Put You at Higher Risk of Tinnitus and Hearing loss

Chances are you’ve had a headache. The aching, pounding, squeezing pressure that is the result of allergies, stress, dehydration or any number of other reasons known and unknown. You may even be one of the millions with a headache disorder.

According to the World Health Organization,

  • Approximately 50% of adults have a current headache disorder (symptoms at least once during the last year)
  • Half to three-quarters of adults aged 18–65 years have had a headache in the last year with at least 30% of those reporting a migraine
  • Headaches affect people of all ages, races, income levels and geographical areas

You may be more familiar than you’d like to be with them, what causes yours and how best to treat them, but what you may not know is that they could impact your hearing.

Could your headaches be putting you at a higher risk for tinnitus and hearing loss?

New research highlights a link

According to new research published in the peer-reviewed journal, PLoS One, headaches could be more than a painful frustration for the millions affected by them. Hearing health and headaches could go hand-in-hand.

Previous research like this and this has focused primarily on the link between migraines and hearing loss, finding that migraines increase the risk of developing hearing loss, sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) and tinnitus.

The newest research instead takes a closer look at non-migraine headaches finding many similar risks when it comes to developing hearing-related problems. That is, those with chronic non-migraine headaches have a higher risk of developing tinnitus, sensorineural hearing loss and sudden deafness.

Similar to previous studies on migraines, the research was conducted using information from the Longitudinal Health Insurance Database 2005 of Taiwan. Subject data were analyzed from 1996 through 2012, identifying those individuals with and without non-migraine headaches and if and when they received their first diagnosis of tinnitus, sensorineural hearing loss or sudden deafness.

The data showed that the higher risk of these hearing health issues was both as a group and as an individual.

What this means for you

While the exact cause of the link is unsure, and more research is needed to understand better what makes those with chronic non-migraine (and migraine) headaches more susceptible to hearing health problems, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk now.

  1. If you are living with chronic headaches, work with your physician to help identify and treat the cause. There are a variety of headache triggers you may be able to reduce or eliminate. Also, discuss how best to manage headaches when they do happen. Many common pain relievers are considered ototoxic and may damage hearing.
  2. Schedule a hearing evaluation. Whether or not you think you have hearing loss, whatever your age or situation, getting your hearing checked annually is a good way to catch tinnitus or hearing loss early to best treat it.

To start managing your hearing health and reduce your risk of hearing loss, contact our office to schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation.


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