Indexed on: 01 Oct '16Published on: 01 Oct '16Published in: PloS one
Globally, a body of comparative case-control studies suggests that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients are more prone to developing hearing loss (HL). However, experimental evidence that supports this hypothesis is still lacking because the human auditory organ is not readily accessible. The aim of this study was to determine the association between bone damage to the ossicles of the middle ear and HL, using a widely accepted murine model of collagen-induced arthritis (RA mice). Diarthrodial joints in the middle ear were examined with microcomputer tomography (microCT), and hearing function was assessed by auditory brainstem response (ABR). RA mice exhibited significantly decreased hearing sensitivity compared to age-matched controls. Additionally, a significant narrowing of the incudostapedial joint space and an increase in the porosity of the stapes were observed. The absolute latencies of all ABR waves were prolonged, but mean interpeak latencies were not statistically different. The observed bone defects in the middle ear that were accompanied by changes in ABR responses were consistent with conductive HL. This combination suggests that conductive impairment is at least part of the etiology of RA-induced HL in a murine model. Whether the inner ear sustains bone erosion or other pathology, and whether the cochlear nerve sustains pathology await subsequent studies. Considering the fact that certain anti-inflammatories are ototoxic in high doses, monitoring RA patients' auditory function is advisable as part of the effort to ensure their well-being.