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

Aging is one of the most common indicators of hearing loss and let’s be truthful, try as we may, aging can’t be stopped. But were you aware hearing loss has also been linked to between
loss concerns
that are treatable, and in certain circumstances, can be avoided? You might be surprised by these examples.

1: Diabetes

Over 5,000 American adults were examined in a 2008 study which discovered that people who had been diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to have some amount of hearing loss when mid or low frequency sounds were utilized to test them. Impairment was also more probable with high-frequency sounds, but not as serious. It was also found by researchers that individuals who struggled with high blood sugar levels but not so high as to be defined as diabetes, in other words, pre-diabetic, were more likely by 30 percent than individuals with normal blood sugar levels, to have hearing loss. A more recent 2013 meta-study (yup, a study of studies) found that the link between diabetes and hearing loss was consistent, even while when all other variables are taken into account.

So it’s pretty well determined that diabetes is connected to an increased danger of hearing loss. But why should you be at higher risk of getting diabetes just because you suffer from hearing loss? The answer isn’t really well known. Diabetes is associated with a number of health concerns, and in particular, can cause physical injury to the extremities, eyes and kidneys. One hypothesis is that the disease may impact the ears in a similar way, harming blood vessels in the inner ear. But it might also be related to general health management. A 2015 study that looked at U.S. military veterans highlighted the connection between loss of hearing and diabetes, but in particular, it found that those with unchecked diabetes, in other words, that those with uncontrolled and untreated diabetes, it found, suffered worse. If you are worried that you may be pre-diabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s essential to consult with a doctor and get your blood sugar tested. Also, if you’re having problems hearing, it’s a smart idea to get it checked out.

2: Falling

OK, this is not exactly a health issue, since we aren’t discussing vertigo, but going through a bad fall can trigger a cascade of health concerns. A study carried out in 2012 uncovered a strong link between the risk of falling and hearing loss though you may not have suspected that there was a relationship between the two. While examining over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, scientists found that for every 10 dB rise in hearing loss (for reference, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the danger of falling increased 1.4X. Even for people with minimal hearing loss the relationship held up: Those with 25 dB hearing loss had 3 times the likelihood than those with normal hearing to have had a fall within the previous 12 months.

Why should you fall because you are having trouble hearing? Even though our ears have a significant role to play in helping us balance, there are other reasons why loss of hearing could get you down (in this case, quite literally). Even though the exact reason for the subject’s falls wasn’t looked at in this study,, it was suspected by the authors that having trouble hearing what’s around you (and missing a car honking or other important sounds) could be one problem. But if you’re having difficulties paying attention to sounds near you, your split attention means you might be paying less attention to your physical environment and that could end up in a fall. What’s promising here is that managing loss of hearing could possibly reduce your chance of having a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

Several studies (including this one from 2018) have found that hearing loss is linked to high blood pressure and some (like this 2013 study) have found that high blood pressure could actually speed up age-related hearing loss. Even after controlling for variables such as noise exposure or if you smoke, the link has been fairly persistently found. The only variable that makes a difference appears to be sex: The link betweenloss of hearing and high blood pressure, if your a guy, is even stronger.

Your ears are quite closely connected to your circulatory system: Two main arteries are very close to the ears not to mention the tiny blood vessels inside them. This is one reason why individuals who have high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, it’s actually their own blood pumping that they’re hearing. (That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; it’s your own pulse your hearing.) But high blood pressure may also potentially be the cause of physical damage to your ears which is the main theory behind why it would speed up hearing loss. Each beat has more force if your heart is pumping harder. That could possibly damage the smaller blood arteries inside your ears. lifestyle changes and medical intervention, high blood pressure can be controlled. But if you suspect you’re dealing with loss of hearing even if you think you’re too young for the age-related stuff, it’s a good decision to speak with a hearing specialist.

4: Dementia

Chances of dementia might be higher with hearing loss. A 2013 study from Johns Hopkins University that was documented after almost 2,000 people in their 70’s during the period of six years revealed that the risk of mental impairment increased by 24% with only mild loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). A 2011 study by the same research group which analyzed subjects over more than ten years found that when the subject’s hearing got worse, the more likely it was that they would get dementia. (Alzheimer’s was also found to have a similar link, albeit a less statistically substantial one.) Based on these findings, moderate hearing loss puts you at 3X the risk of someone who doesn’t have hearing loss; one’s danger is nearly quintupled with significant hearing loss.

But, even though researchers have been successful at documenting the link between loss of hearing and cognitive decline, they still aren’t positive as to why this takes place. If you can’t hear well, it’s overwhelming to socialize with people so in theory you will avoid social situations, and that social isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be incapacitating. A different hypothesis is that loss of hearing short circuits your brain. In essence, trying to hear sounds around you fatigues your brain so you may not have much juice left for recalling things such as where you put your medication. Maintaining social ties and doing crosswords or brain games could help here, but so can treating 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 critical things instead of trying to understand what someone just said. So if you are coping with loss of hearing, you should put a plan of action in place including having a hearing test.

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