HEARING TIPS

Can Other Medical Issues Result From Hearing Loss?

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

Aging is one of the most common signals of hearing loss and truth be told, try as we may, aging can’t be escaped. But were you aware hearing loss can lead to between
loss concerns
that can be treated, and in some cases, can be prevented? Here’s a peek at a few cases that will surprise you.

1: Diabetes

A widely-quoted 2008 study that studied over 5,000 American adults revealed that people who were diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to suffer from mild or greater hearing loss when mid or low frequency sounds were applied to screen them. High frequency impairment was also likely but not so severe. The analysts also found that individuals who were pre-diabetic, in other words, individuals with blood sugar levels that are elevated, but not high enough to be defined as diabetes, were 30 % more likely than those with normal blood sugar levels, to have hearing loss. A more recent 2013 meta-study (yup, a study of studies) discovered that the connection between loss of hearing and diabetes was persistent, even when taking into consideration other variables.

So the association between loss of hearing and diabetes is very well established. But why would you be at higher danger of getting diabetes simply because you have hearing loss? Science is somewhat at a loss here. Diabetes is linked to a wide range of health issues, and notably, can cause physical injury to the extremities, eyes and kidneys. One hypothesis is that the disease could impact the ears in a similar manner, blood vessels in the ears being harmed. But it could also be related to general health management. A 2015 study that looked at U.S. military veterans underscored the connection between loss of hearing and diabetes, but particularly, it found that individuals with unchecked diabetes, in essence, people suffered worse if they had untreated and uncontrolled. It’s necessary to have your blood sugar analyzed and consult with a doctor if you think you might have undiagnosed diabetes or might be pre-diabetic. It’s a good idea to get your hearing checked if you’re having trouble hearing too.

2: Falling

You could have a bad fall. It’s not exactly a health problem, because it’s not vertigo but it can lead to lots of other complications. And while you may not think that your hearing would impact your likelihood of tripping or slipping, research from 2012 uncovered a considerable link between hearing loss and risk of a fall. While studying over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, scientists found that for every 10 dB increase in hearing loss (as an example, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the chance of falling increased 1.4X. This link held up even for people with mild loss of hearing: Within the last twelve months individuals with 25 dB of hearing loss were more likely to have fallen than individuals with normal hearing.

Why should you fall just because you are having trouble hearing? There are numerous reasons why hearing problems can lead to a fall aside from the role your ears have in balance. While the reason for the individual’s falls wasn’t examined in this study,, the authors theorized that having trouble hearing what’s going on around you you (and missing a car honking or other significant sounds) may be one issue. But if you’re having difficulties paying attention to sounds around you, your divided attention means you may not be paying attention to your physical environment and that may lead to a fall. What’s promising here is that dealing with loss of hearing may potentially decrease your chance of having a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

Several studies (like this one from 2018) have shown that loss of hearing is connected to high blood pressure and some (including this 2013 research) have shown that high blood pressure might actually accelerate age-related hearing loss. It’s a link that’s been found fairly persistently, even while controlling for variables like noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. Gender is the only variable that appears to make a difference: The connection between high blood pressure and loss of hearing, if your a man, is even stronger.

Your ears are quite closely related to your circulatory system: along with the numerous tiny blood vessels in your ear, two of the body’s main arteries run right near it. This is one reason why people who have high blood pressure often experience 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 pulse your hearing.) But high blood pressure may also potentially cause physical injury to your ears which is the leading theory behind why it would quicken hearing loss. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force every time it beats. The smaller blood vessels in your ears may possibly be injured by this. High blood pressure is controllable, through both lifestyle changes and medical interventions. But if you suspect you’re suffering with hearing loss even if you believe 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

Chances of dementia could be higher with hearing loss. A six year study, started in 2013 that followed 2,000 people in their 70’s found that the danger of mental impairment increased by 24% with only slight loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). It was also revealed, in a study from 2011 conducted by the same group of researchers, that the risk of dementia raised proportionally the worse hearing loss became. (Alzheimer’s was also discovered to have a similar link, even though it was less significant.) moderate hearing loss, based on these findings, puts you at three times the risk of somebody with no hearing loss; one’s chance is nearly quintupled with extreme loss of hearing.

But, though experts have been able to document the connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decline, they still aren’t sure as to why this takes place. A common hypothesis is that having trouble hearing can cause people to avoid social situations, and that social withdrawal and lack of mental stimulation can be debilitating. A different hypothesis is that hearing loss overloads your brain. In essence, because your brain is putting so much of its recourses into understanding the sounds near you, you might not have very much juice left for recalling things like where you put your medication. Preserving social ties and keeping the brain active and challenged could help here, but so can dealing with hearing loss. If you’re able to hear clearly, social situations are easier to handle, and you’ll be able to focus on the important stuff instead of attempting to figure out what someone just said. So if you are dealing with hearing loss, you should put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing test.

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