Aging is one of the most common signals of hearing loss and truth be told, as hard as we might try, we can’t avoid aging. But did you know that hearing loss has also been linked to between
loss issues that can be managed, and in certain situations, can be avoided? Here’s a look at some examples that will surprise you.
Over 5,000 American adults were looked at in a 2008 study which revealed that diabetes diagnosed individuals were twice as likely to have mild or more hearing loss when screened with low or mid-frequency sounds. High frequency impairment was also possible but less severe. It was also revealed by analysts that people who had high blood sugar levels but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes, in other words, pre-diabetic, were more likely by 30 % than those who had healthy blood sugar levels, to have loss of hearing. A more recent 2013 meta-study (that’s right, a study of studies) discovered that there was a persistent link between hearing loss and diabetes, even when when all other variables are considered.
So the link between loss of hearing and diabetes is quite well demonstrated. But why should diabetes put you at higher danger of getting loss of hearing? Science is somewhat at a loss here. Diabetes is associated with a number of health issues, and particularly, can trigger physical harm to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One hypothesis is that the the ears might be likewise impacted 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 link between hearing loss and diabetes in U.S veterans, but most notably, it discovered that individuals with unchecked diabetes, in other words, people suffered even worse if they had uncontrolled and untreated diabetes. It’s necessary to get your blood sugar analyzed and consult with a doctor if you believe you may have undiagnosed diabetes or might be pre-diabetic. Similarly, if you’re having trouble hearing, it’s a good idea to get it examined.
All right, this is not really a health condition, since we aren’t discussing vertigo, but going through a bad fall can trigger a cascade of health problems. And while you may not think that your hearing could impact your likelihood of tripping or slipping, research from 2012 uncovered a significant link between hearing loss and fall risk. Looking at a sample of over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 and 69, researchers found that for every 10 dB rise in hearing loss (for reference, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the chance of falling increased 1.4X. This link held up even for individuals with mild loss of hearing: Those who had 25 dB hearing loss had 3 times the likelihood than those with normal hearing to have had a fall within the past 12 months.
Why would you fall because you are having difficulty hearing? There are numerous reasons why hearing struggles can lead to a fall aside from the role your ears have in balance. While the reason for the subject’s falls wasn’t investigated in this study,, it was suspected by the authors that having trouble hearing what’s around you (and missing an important sound like a car honking) might be one problem. But if you’re struggling to pay attention to sounds around you, your divided attention means you might be paying less attention to your physical environment and that could lead to a fall. What’s promising here is that dealing with loss of hearing may potentially decrease your chance of suffering a fall.
3: High Blood Pressure
A variety of studies (including this one from 2018) have demonstrated that hearing loss is connected to high blood pressure and some (including this 2013 research) have found that high blood pressure could actually speed up age-related hearing loss. Even after controlling for variables including if you’re a smoker or noise exposure, the connection has been rather persistently found. Gender is the only variable that appears to matter: If you’re a guy, the link between high blood pressure and hearing loss 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, the pulsing they’re hearing is ultimately their own blood pumping. (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 do permanent damage to your ears. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more pressure every time it beats. That could possibly damage the smaller blood arteries in your ears. High blood pressure is controllable, through both medical interventions and lifestyle change. But if you believe you’re experiencing hearing loss even if you think you’re too young for the age-related stuff, it’s a good decision to consult a hearing care professional.
Hearing loss could put you at higher risk of dementia. 2013 research from Johns Hopkins University that was documented after about 2,000 individuals in their 70’s over the course of six years found that the risk of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with only slight hearing loss (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). A 2011 study by the same research group which tracked people over more than a decade discovered that when the subject’s hearing got worse, the more probably it was that he or she would develop dementia. (They also discovered a similar link to Alzheimer’s Disease, albeit a less statistically substantial one.) moderate hearing loss, based on these findings, puts you at 3X the risk of somebody with no hearing loss; severe loss of hearing raises the danger by 4 times.
But, though experts have been able to document the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, they still don’t know why this happens. If you can’t hear very well, it’s overwhelming to interact with people so the theory is you will 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 of its recourses into understanding the sounds near you, you might not have very much juice left for recalling things such as where you put your medication. Preserving social ties and doing crosswords or brain games could help here, but so can treating loss of hearing. Social circumstances become much more overwhelming when you are attempting to hear what people are saying. So if you are dealing with loss of hearing, you need to put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing test.