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

Aging is one of the most common hearing loss indicators and truth be told, try as we may, we can’t escape aging. But were you aware hearing loss has also been linked to between
loss concerns
that can be treated, and in certain circumstances, can be prevented? Here’s a peek at some examples that will surprise you.

1: Diabetes

A widely-cited 2008 study that examined over 5,000 American adults revealed that people who had been diagnosed with diabetes were twice as likely to have mild or greater hearing loss when mid or low frequency tones were utilized to screen them. High frequency impairment was also possible but not as severe. It was also found by analysts that people who struggled with high blood sugar levels but not so high as to be diagnosed with diabetes, in other words, pre-diabetic, were 30 percent more likely to suffer from hearing loss than people with normal blood sugar. A more recent 2013 meta-study (that’s right, a study of studies) found that the connection between diabetes and hearing loss was consistent, even when controlling for other variables.

So the connection between loss of hearing and diabetes is pretty well demonstrated. But why should diabetes put you at higher risk of getting loss of hearing? The reason isn’t really well comprehended. Diabetes is linked to a wide range of health issues, and particularly, can cause physical damage to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One hypothesis is that the the ears may be likewise affected by the disease, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But it could also be associated with overall health management. A 2015 study highlighted the connection between diabetes and loss of hearing in U.S veterans, but most notably, it found that individuals with uncontrolled diabetes, in essence, people suffered even worse if they had untreated and uncontrolled. If you are concerned that you might be pre-diabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s necessary to consult with a doctor and have your blood sugar tested. Also, if you’re having difficulty hearing, it’s a good idea to get it checked out.

2: Falling

You could have a bad fall. It’s not really a health problem, because it’s not vertigo but it can trigger many other difficulties. Research carried out in 2012 revealed a strong connection between the chance of falling and loss of hearing though you may not have thought that there was a link between the two. Looking at a sample of over 2,000 adults ages 40 to 69, investigators discovered that for every 10 dB rise in loss of hearing (as an example, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the danger of falling increased 1.4X. This connection held up even for individuals with mild hearing loss: Those with 25 dB hearing loss were 3 times as likely as those who had normal hearing to have had a fall within the previous year.

Why should you fall because you are having trouble hearing? While our ears have an important role to play in helping us balance, there are other reasons why loss of hearing could get you down (in this case, quite literally). Though the exact reason for the subject’s falls wasn’t investigated in this study,, the authors speculated that having difficulty hearing what’s around you (and missing a car honking or other important sounds) might be one issue. But if you’re having difficulties paying attention to sounds near you, your split attention means you may not be paying attention to your physical environment and that may end up in a fall. What’s promising here is that dealing with loss of hearing might possibly lessen your chance of suffering a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

Multiple studies (like this one from 2018) have found that hearing loss is connected to high blood pressure and some (like this 2013 study) have observed that high blood pressure might actually accelerate age-related hearing loss. It’s a connection that’s been found pretty consistently, even while controlling for variables like whether or not you smoke or noise exposure. Gender is the only variable that seems to matter: The link betweenloss of hearing and high blood pressure, if your a male, is even stronger.

Your ears are not part of your circulatory system, but they’re darn close to it: In addition to the many little blood vessels in your ear, two of the body’s main arteries go right near it. This is one reason why individuals who have high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, it’s ultimately 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 might also potentially be the cause of physical damage to your ears which is the main theory behind why it would speed up loss of hearing. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force behind each beat. 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 suspect you’re dealing with loss of hearing even if you think you’re not old enough for the age-related stuff, it’s a good move to consult a hearing care professional.

4: Dementia

Risk of dementia may be higher with hearing loss. A 2013 study from Johns Hopkins University that followed almost 2,000 people in their 70’s over the course of six years found that the danger of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with only minor loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). It was also found, in a 2011 study conducted by the same research group, that the risk of dementia increased proportionally the worse hearing loss became. (They also uncovered a similar link to Alzheimer’s Disease, though a less statistically substantial one.) Based on these conclusions, moderate loss of hearing puts you at 3 times the risk of somebody with no hearing loss; severe hearing loss nearly quintuples one’s danger.

It’s scary stuff, but it’s essential to recognize that while the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline has been well recognized, researchers have been less successful at figuring out why the two are so solidly linked. If you can’t hear very well, it’s overwhelming to socialize with people so the theory is you will avoid social interactions, and that social withdrawal and lack of mental stimulation can be incapacitating. Another hypothesis is that loss of hearing short circuits your brain. In essence, because your brain is putting so much of its recourses into understanding the sounds near you, you may not have very much energy left for remembering things like where you left your keys. Preserving social ties and keeping the brain active and challenged could help here, but so can treating hearing loss. If you’re capable of hearing clearly, social situations become much easier to handle, and you’ll be capable of focusing on the critical stuff instead of trying to figure out what someone just said. So if you are dealing with loss of hearing, you need to put a plan of action in place including having a hearing test.

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