Can Lupus Cause Hearing Loss?

This blog has been reviewed and approved by a hearing care professional.

Hearing loss can be a symptom of Lupus and other autoimmune diseases. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) happens when your immune system attacks your own body. The problem is that your immune system thinks your cells and structures are “intruders”. These attacks often target specific organs or structures such as the skin and kidneys. However, other parts of the body are also at risk of damage including the inner ear.1
People with lupus often begin to experience hearing loss in one ear. It affects high-pitched sounds before it spreads to the other ear and affects lower pitches.2 This is known as reverse-slope hearing loss. Lupus is associated with other hearing problems such as:

●    Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)3
●    Dizziness (Vertigo)3
●    Aural fullness3
●    Auditory processing disorder (APD)3

What Is Lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues and organs. This leads to inflammation that can affect various body systems such as joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. A notable indication of lupus is a distinct facial rash resembling the unfolding wings of a butterfly, although not all cases exhibit this symptom. There is currently no known cure for lupus, but some treatments are available to help manage and control its symptoms.

Studies Between Lupus and Hearing Loss

In a new study, researchers reviewed data from 17 different studies totaling 1,326 participants overall. There were 635 people with lupus and 691 “controls” - people without lupus of the similar age. It found that 27% of people with lupus were diagnosed with hearing loss compared to just 2% of the control group. This means that patients with lupus had significantly higher odds of experiencing hearing loss.4

Why Does Hearing Loss from Lupus Occur?

Hearing loss with lupus happens because something is wrong with the inner ear. One cause of inner ear damage for people with lupus is autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED).1 AIED is an inflammatory condition caused by an uncontrolled immune system response. It attacks the inner ear causing sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).

Lupus is also known to cause vasculitis. Vasculitis causes the inflammation and narrowing of blood vessels. This includes arteries, veins and capillaries. The inflammation can result in autoimmune damage or a build-up of immune cells and immune cell residues in the circulatory system. Vasculitis can cause hearing loss in a few different ways:5

●    It can block oxygen flow to the hair cells and auditory nerve
●    Small minor strokes which damage the brain and could affect hearing

Treatment for Lupus-Related Hearing Loss

There is no treatment which can restore hearing or reverse the damage to the inner ear. However, there are some options that may help improve your hearing if you are experiencing hearing loss related to lupus:5

Medical Treatment for Lupus
Lupus-related hearing loss may be treated with anti-inflammatory medication, steroids or other medications. You can speak with your primary care provider about the medical treatments available to you.

Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are small electronic devices that you wear in or behind your ear. The devices are programmed by a hearing care professional and personalized based on your hearing test results.  The settings are configured so that a person with hearing loss can continue to participate fully in the activities of their life.

Cochlear Implants
Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices for people who have severe or greater hearing loss. It is meant for people whose hearing loss is so extreme that hearing aids on their own can no longer help. It bypasses the inner ear to receive and send hearing signals to the brain.

What Can You Do?

If you have been diagnosed with lupus or another autoimmune disorder, keep in mind that it may affect your hearing. Getting regular hearing assessments is especially important for people with lupus or other autoimmune diseases. Contact us to book an appointment at one of our hearing centres located across Canada.

1 - “Lupus is Associated with Increased Risk of Hearing Loss.” LUPUS Foundation of America. Mar 3, 2021. Accessed on April 14, 2023.
2 - “Lupus and Hearing Loss.” April 1, 2021. Accessed on April 14, 2023.
3 - Di Stadio A, Ralli M. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and hearing disorders: Literature review and meta-analysis of clinical and temporal bone findings. J Int Med Res. 2017;45(5):1470-1480. doi:10.1177/0300060516688600.
4 - Yuen E, Fried J, Nguyen SA, Rizk HG, Ward C, Meyer TA. Hearing loss in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Lupus. 2021;30(6):937-945. doi:10.1177/0961203321997919
5 - “Hearing Loss, Ear Health, and Lupus.” Lupus Corner. Accessed on April 14, 2023.