Aging is one of the most common signals of hearing loss and truth be told, as hard as we might try, aging can’t be escaped. But were you aware hearing loss has also been connected to health concerns that can be treated, and in some cases, avoidable? You may be surprised by these examples.
A widely-quoted 2008 study that evaluated over 5,000 American adults discovered that diabetes diagnosed people were two times as likely to have some level of hearing loss when tested with mid or low-frequency sounds. High frequency impairment was also possible but not as severe. The investigators also observed that subjects who were pre-diabetic, in a nutshell, individuals with blood sugar levels that are elevated, but not high enough to be defined as diabetes, were 30 % more likely to suffer from hearing loss than individuals who had normal blood sugar. A more recent 2013 meta-study (you got it, a study of studies) revealed that the link between hearing loss and diabetes was persistent, even while taking into consideration other variables.
So the association between loss of hearing and diabetes is very well founded. But why should diabetes put you at greater chance of suffering from loss of hearing? Science is somewhat at a loss here. Diabetes is connected to a number of health issues, and particularly, can trigger physical damage to the extremities, eyes and kidneys. One theory is that the the ears might be likewise impacted by the disease, blood vessels in the ears being damaged. But overall health management may be at fault. A 2015 study highlighted the connection between loss of hearing and diabetes in U.S veterans, but most notably, it discovered that those with unchecked diabetes, in other words, that those with untreated and uncontrolled diabetes, it found, suffered more. If you are concerned that you might be pre-diabetic or are suffering from undiagnosed diabetes, it’s important to consult with a doctor and have your blood sugar checked. By the same token, if you’re having trouble hearing, it’s a smart idea to get it checked out.
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. A study conducted in 2012 disclosed a definite connection between the chance of falling and hearing loss though you may not have suspected that there was a link between the two. While studying over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, scientists discovered that for every 10 dB increase in loss of hearing (as an example, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the risk of falling increased 1.4X. Even for those with minor hearing loss the link held up: Within the past year individuals who had 25 dB of hearing loss were more likely to have fallen than people with normal hearing.
Why should you fall just because you are having difficulty hearing? Even though our ears play an important role in helping us balance, there are other reasons why hearing loss could get you down (in this case, quite literally). Though this research didn’t go into what was the cause of the subject’s falls, it was speculated by the authors that having trouble hearing what’s around you (and missing an important sound such as a car honking) could be one problem. But it could also go the other way if problems hearing means you’re paying more attention to sounds than to your surroundings, it could be easy to trip and fall. The good news here is that dealing with hearing loss may possibly lessen your chance of having a fall.
3: High Blood Pressure
Several studies (including this one from 2018) have found that loss of hearing is linked to high blood pressure and some (like this 2013 study) have shown that high blood pressure could actually accelerate age-related hearing loss. Even after controlling for variables such as if you’re a smoker or noise exposure, the connection has been relatively persistently discovered. Gender is the only variable that appears to matter: If you’re a male, the connection between hearing loss and high blood pressure is even stronger.
Your ears are very closely related to your circulatory system: In addition to the many tiny blood vessels inside your ear, two of the body’s main arteries run right by it. This is one reason why people with high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is ultimately 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 damage to your ears which is the leading theory behind why it would speed up loss of hearing. Each beat has more pressure if your heart is pumping harder. The smaller blood vessels in your ears could possibly be injured by this. lifestyle changes and medical intervention, high blood pressure can be controlled. But if you believe you’re dealing with hearing loss even if you believe you’re too young for the age-related problems, it’s a good move to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert.
Risk of dementia could be higher with hearing loss. A six year study, started in 2013 that followed 2,000 individuals in their 70’s discovered that the chance of mental impairment increased by 24% with just slight hearing loss (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). 2011 research by the same research group which tracked people over more than 10 years discovered that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more likely it was that they would develop dementia. (Alzheimer’s was also found to have a similar connection, though a less statistically significant one.) Based on these conclusions, moderate loss of hearing puts you at three times the risk of a person with no hearing loss; severe hearing loss raises the risk by 4 times.
However, though scientists have been successful at documenting the link between cognitive decline and loss of hearing, they still aren’t sure as to why this occurs. A common theory is that having trouble hearing can cause people to avoid social interactions, and that social isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be debilitating. Another theory is that loss of hearing overloads your brain. Essentially, because your brain is putting so much energy into understanding the sounds near you, you may not have very much energy left for remembering things such as where you left your keys. Staying in close communication with friends and family and doing crosswords or brain games could help here, but so can dealing with loss of hearing. If you’re capable of hearing clearly, social situations are easier to deal with, and you’ll be capable of focusing on the necessary stuff instead of attempting to figure out what someone just said. So if you are coping with loss of hearing, you should put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing exam.