January is National Thyroid Awareness Month! The thyroid is a very important organ in our bodies and can affect a lot of other functions, including our hearing.
What is the thyroid and what is it responsible for?
Your thyroid is a gland that sits below your Adam’s apple, along the front of your windpipe. It’s butterfly-shaped and when it’s its normal size you can’t feel it. The thyroid releases hormones that control metabolism, or the way your body uses its energy. These hormones regulate vital body functions, including breathing, heart rate, central and peripheral nervous systems, body weight and many others.
What are some common thyroid conditions?
It’s estimated that nearly 20 million Americans suffer from some form of thyroid disease. Interestingly, almost 60 percent of these people are unaware of their condition because the symptoms are often confused with other health problems. Some of the most common thyroid conditions include:
- Goiter: This is the general term for thyroid swelling. This condition can be harmless, or it may affect your breathing or swallowing.
- Thyroiditis: This condition is the inflammation of the thyroid, often from a viral infection or autoimmune infection. It can be painful, or you may experience no symptoms at all.
- Hyperthyroidism: This is when your thyroid produces excess hormones.
- Hypothyroidism: This condition is the low production of thyroid hormones, often caused by autoimmune disease.
- Thyroid cancer: This is an uncommon form of cancer and is usually curable.
What’s the link between the thyroid and hearing health?
Those who suffer from hypothyroidism may see an effect on their hearing health. In fact, nearly half of the people with low thyroid function have some degree of hearing loss. Without enough thyroid hormone to regulate metabolism, many of the body’s functions slow down. This impacts nearly every part of the body, including the heart, brain and your ears. It’s also common to experience tinnitus and/or vertigo if you suffer from hypothyroidism.
If you’ve been noticing systemic health issues that don’t seem to have an explanation, you may want to speak with your doctor about the possibility of thyroid disease. And as always, if your hearing seems to be getting worse, schedule some time with your hearing care professional to talk thorough treatment options and solutions.
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