Beware of Hearing Loss with Hypothyroidism

By Barbara Hales, M.D.

Perhaps you have noticed some irritability, tiredness or difficulty remembering things.  Maybe you have seen some weight gain or muscle cramps. Have you chalked this up to stress or part of the aging process?

These symptoms may be so mild and gradual that you don’t realize that you have a hypothyroid problem.  This is a condition where you have an abnormally sluggish metabolism due to a thyroid hormone deficiency in the bloodstream. While this occurs naturally, certain medications, autoimmune diseases, and thyroid removal or iodine therapy can also bring it on.

How Does Hypothyroidism Present?

Signs of this include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry or cold skin and brittle nails
  • Tiredness, weakness
  • Depression, difficulty with memory or focus
  • Constipation
  • Irregular menses
  • Weight Gain
  • Swelling of arms, hands, legs and feet
  • Hoarseness
  • Puffy Face

Diagnosis of hypothyroidism

The thyroid gland, which is located above your voice box, is palpated to see if there is any enlargement.  Then a blood test is done to assess the level of T4 (which would be low) and TSH- thyroid stimulating hormone (which would be very high)

Hypothyroidism and the Ear

What you may also not notice in the beginning is some compromise to your hearing.

It is quite common to have hearing loss with hypothyroidism and in fact as much as half of those with poor thyroid function also have decreased hearing along with 3% suffering from Meniere’s syndrome (a condition of the inner ear causing dizziness, tinnitus which is a roaring sound that you hear constantly and an intermittent hearing loss)

Associated with hypothyroidism, one may experience:

  • Vertigo (a feeling where the room is spinning or motion when movement is not taking place)
  • Tinnitus (ringing or roaring sounds in the ear)
  • Nerve or sensorineural deafness
  • Conduction deafness

Theories have been proposed that the link is from nerve swelling, edema of the middle ear or bad middle ear infections (also known as serous otitis media).  Often the hearing can be improved by hormone replacement.  This unfortunately cannot be reversed when thyroid hormone resistance causes hypothyroidism.

Typical treatment of a slow thyroid condition consists of thyroxin therapy and then blood is retested every six weeks to determine whether there is a therapeutic response and that the appropriate level has been obtained.  Thyroxin has not been classified as ototoxic meaning that it is not associated with hearing damage.

Once the diagnosis of hypothyroidism has been made, it is very important to visit an audiologist to have the hearing checked.  When losses first start out, only certain frequencies may be compromised and not noticed by the individuals themselves.

About Barbara Hales, M.D.

Barbara Hales, M.D. is a best-selling author, speaker, health marketer, and healthcare expert.  She has appeared on NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and Fox affiliates as well as Newsweek. Her latest book “Power to the Patient: The Medical Strategist” is on   Learn more about Dr. Hales at: