Doctor speaks with patient about medical conditions related to hearing loss and tinnitus.

Aging is one of the most typical indicators of hearing loss and let’s be truthful, try as we might, we can’t stop aging. But did you know that hearing loss has also been connected to health issues that can be treated, and in many cases, avoidable? Here’s a look at various examples that may surprise you.

1: Diabetes

A widely-cited 2008 study that examined over 5,000 American adults found that individuals who were diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to suffer from mild or more hearing loss when low or mid frequency sounds were applied to test them. Impairment was also more likely with high-frequency sounds, but not as extreme. It was also revealed by investigators that individuals who struggled with high blood sugar levels but not so high as to be diagnosed with diabetes, put simply, pre-diabetic, were 30 % more likely than those who had healthy blood sugar levels, to have hearing loss. A more recent 2013 meta-study (yup, a study of studies) found that there was a persistent association between loss of hearing and diabetes, even while when all other variables are taken into account.

So it’s well determined that diabetes is connected to an increased danger of hearing loss. But why would diabetes put you at increased chance of suffering from hearing loss? The reason isn’t really well understood. Diabetes is related to a broad range of health issues, and in particular, can trigger physical damage to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One hypothesis is that the disease could impact the ears in a similar manner, blood vessels in the ears being damaged. But it may also be associated with general health management. A 2015 study that investigated U.S. military veterans highlighted the link between hearing loss and diabetes, but in particular, it found that people with uncontrolled diabetes, in other words, people suffered worse if they had uncontrolled and untreated diabetes. If you are concerned that you might be pre-diabetic or are suffering from undiagnosed diabetes, it’s necessary to talk to a doctor and get your blood sugar evaluated. It’s a smart idea to have your hearing checked if you’re having difficulty hearing also.

2: Falling

You could have a bad fall. It’s not really a health problem, because it isn’t vertigo but it can trigger numerous other complications. And while you might not realize that your hearing would affect your likelihood of tripping or slipping, research from 2012 found a considerable connection between hearing loss and fall risk. While studying over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, scientists found that for every 10 dB rise in loss of hearing (for reference, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the risk of falling increased 1.4X. This relationship held up even for people with mild loss of hearing: Those with 25 dB hearing loss had 3 times the likelihood than those who had normal hearing to have had a fall within the past year.

Why would you fall just because you are having difficulty hearing? There are numerous reasons why hearing issues can lead to a fall aside from the role your ears play in balance. Though the reason for the subject’s falls wasn’t looked at in this study,, it was speculated by the authors that having difficulty hearing what’s around you (and missing a car honking or other significant sounds) might be one problem. But it could also go the other way if difficulty hearing means you’re paying more attention to sounds than to your surroundings, it could be easy to trip and fall. What’s promising here is that dealing with loss of hearing could potentially reduce your risk of suffering a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

Multiple studies (such as this one from 2018) have revealed that hearing loss is associated with high blood pressure and some (including this 2013 study) have established that high blood pressure could actually accelerate age-related hearing loss. Even after controlling for variables including noise exposure or if you smoke, the connection has been pretty consistently discovered. Gender is the only variable that appears to make a difference: If you’re a man, the connection between hearing loss and high blood pressure is even stronger.

Your ears aren’t part of your circulatory system, but they’re darn close to it: along with the countless tiny blood vessels inside your ear, two of the body’s main arteries run right by it. This is one explanation why people who have high blood pressure often experience tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is actually their own blood pumping. (That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; it’s your own pulse your hearing.) But high blood pressure could also possibly be the cause of physical injury to your ears which is the leading theory behind why it would accelerate loss of hearing. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force behind each beat. The smaller blood vessels in your ears might possibly be injured by this. lifestyle changes and medical intervention, high blood pressure can be managed. But if you think you’re experiencing hearing loss even if you think you’re not old enough for the age-related stuff, it’s a good decision to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert.

4: Dementia

Danger of dementia could be higher with loss of hearing. A 2013 study from Johns Hopkins University that was documented after nearly 2,000 people in their 70’s during the period of six years found that the risk of mental impairment increased by 24% with only minor loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). 2011 research by the same research group which tracked people over more than a decade found that when the subject’s hearing got worse, the more probably it was that they would get dementia. (They also uncovered a similar link to Alzheimer’s Disease, though a less statistically significant one.) Based on these findings, moderate loss of hearing puts you at three times the danger of someone who doesn’t have hearing loss; severe hearing loss raises the risk by 4 times.

It’s frightening information, but it’s important to note that while the link between loss of hearing and cognitive decline has been well recognized, experts have been less successful at figuring out why the two are so strongly connected. A common theory is that having difficulty hearing can cause people to avoid social interactions, and that social isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be incapacitating. Another theory is that hearing loss short circuits your brain. Essentially, because your brain is putting so much energy into comprehending the sounds around you, you might not have much juice left for recalling things such as where you put your keys. Preserving social ties and keeping the brain active and challenged could help here, but so can dealing with hearing loss. Social scenarios become much more confusing when you are contending to hear what people are saying. So if you are coping with loss of hearing, you need to put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing test.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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