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

Aging is one of the most typical hearing loss indicators and let’s face it, try as we might, aging can’t be stopped. But were you aware loss of hearing has also been connected to health concerns that can be managed, and in certain circumstances, avoidable? Here’s a peek at several cases that could surprise you.

1: Diabetes

A widely-quoted 2008 study that studied over 5,000 American adults discovered that individuals who had been diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to suffer from some amount of hearing loss when low or mid frequency tones were utilized to screen them. Impairment was also more likely with high-frequency sounds, but not as serious. The experts also determined 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 more likely by 30 percent to have loss of hearing than individuals who had healthy blood sugar. A more recent 2013 meta-study (yup, a study of studies) discovered that the link between diabetes and hearing loss was consistent, even when controlling for other variables.

So it’s solidly determined that diabetes is associated with a higher chance of hearing loss. But why should you be at increased danger of getting diabetes just because you suffer from hearing loss? The answer isn’t really well comprehended. Diabetes is connected to a wide range of health concerns, and particularly, can trigger physical damage to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One theory is that the disease might affect the ears in a similar manner, blood vessels in the ears being damaged. But it may also be related to general health management. A 2015 study highlighted the link between diabetes and loss of hearing in U.S veterans, but most notably, it discovered that individuals with unchecked diabetes, in essence, that those with untreated and uncontrolled diabetes, it discovered, suffered more. It’s necessary to get your blood sugar analyzed and speak with a doctor if you think you could have undiagnosed diabetes or may be pre-diabetic. Also, if you’re having trouble hearing, it’s a smart idea to get it examined.

2: Falling

All right, this is not really a health condition, since we aren’t discussing vertigo, but going through a bad fall can initiate a cascade of health issues. Research performed in 2012 showed a strong connection between the danger of falling and hearing loss though you might not have thought that there was a connection between the two. Evaluating a trial of over 2,000 adults ages 40 to 69, researchers found that for every 10 dB rise in hearing loss (as an example, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the danger of falling increased 1.4X. This relationship held up even for those with mild hearing loss: Those with 25 dB hearing loss had 3 times the likelihood than those with normal hearing to have fallen within the previous 12 months.

Why should having trouble hearing make you fall? There are a number of reasons why hearing issues can lead to a fall besides the role your ears have in balance. Though this research didn’t go into what was the cause of the subject’s falls, it was theorized by the authors that having problems hearing what’s going on around you you (and missing an important sound such as a car honking) could be one problem. But it could also go the other way if difficulty hearing means you’re concentrating on sounds rather than paying attention to your surroundings, it may be easy to trip and fall. The good news here is that treating hearing loss could potentially lessen your chance of having a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

A variety of studies (such as this one from 2018) have demonstrated that loss of hearing is connected to high blood pressure and some (like this 2013 study) have observed that high blood pressure may actually speed up age-related hearing loss. It’s a link that’s been seen rather persistently, even while controlling for variables such as noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. Gender is the only variable that seems to make a difference: The connection betweenhearing loss and high blood pressure, if your a male, is even stronger.

Your ears are very closely connected to your circulatory system: Two main arteries are very close to the ears and additionally the little blood vessels inside them. This is one reason why individuals with high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, it’s ultimately their own blood pumping that they are hearing. (That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; you’re hearing your own pulse.) The main theory behind why high blood pressure might quicken hearing loss is that high blood pressure can also cause permanent injury to your ears. Each beat has more pressure if your heart is pumping harder. 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 believe you’re suffering from loss of hearing even if you believe you’re too young for the age-related stuff, it’s a good idea to consult a hearing care professional.

4: Dementia

Loss of hearing might put you at higher risk of dementia. A six year study, begun in 2013 that analyzed 2,000 people in their 70’s discovered that the chance of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with only slight hearing loss (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). It was also found, in a 2011 study conducted by the same group of researchers, that the risk of dementia increased proportionally the worse hearing loss got. (Alzheimer’s was also discovered to have a similar connection, even though it was less significant.) moderate loss of hearing, based on these findings, puts you at 3 times the danger of someone without hearing loss; one’s risk is nearly quintupled with significant loss of hearing.

But, even though researchers have been able to document the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline, they still don’t know why this occurs. If you can’t hear well, it’s difficult to interact with people so in theory you will avoid social situations, and that social isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be debilitating. A different theory is that loss of hearing overloads your brain. In essence, because your brain is putting so much energy into comprehending the sounds around you, you might not have very much energy left for recalling things such as where you left your keys. Preserving social ties and keeping the brain active and challenged could help here, but so can treating hearing loss. Social situations become much more confusing when you are struggling to hear what people are saying. So if you are dealing with loss of hearing, you should put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing exam.

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