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

Aging is one of the most typical signals of hearing loss and truth be told, as hard as we might try, aging can’t be stopped. But were you aware hearing loss has also been linked to between
loss problems
that are treatable, and in certain circumstances, avoidable? You may be surprised by these examples.

1: Diabetes

A widely-quoted 2008 study that studied over 5,000 American adults found that diabetes diagnosed individuals were twice as likely to have some level of hearing loss when mid or low frequency tones were utilized to screen them. Impairment was also more probable with high-frequency sounds, but not as extreme. It was also discovered by investigators that people who had high blood sugar levels but not so high as to be diagnosed with diabetes, put simply, pre-diabetic, were more likely by 30 % than those who had healthy blood sugar levels, to have hearing loss. A more recent 2013 meta-study (yup, a study of studies) determined that there was a absolutely consistent link between hearing loss and diabetes, even while controlling for other variables.

So it’s solidly established that diabetes is linked to a greater chance of hearing loss. But why should you be at higher danger of getting diabetes simply because you suffer from loss of hearing? Science is somewhat at a loss here. Diabetes is connected to a wide variety of health issues, and particularly, the kidneys, extremities, and eyes can be harmed physically. One hypothesis is that the disease might affect the ears in a similar manner, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But it may also be associated with overall health management. A 2015 study underscored the link between diabetes and hearing loss in U.S veterans, but in particular, it revealed that those with unchecked diabetes, in essence, people suffered worse if they had untreated and uncontrolled. If you are concerned that you may be pre-diabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s important to speak to a doctor and get your blood sugar checked. Similarly, if you’re having problems hearing, it’s a smart idea to get it examined.

2: Falling

You could have a bad fall. It’s not really a health issue, because it isn’t vertigo but it can result in numerous other complications. Research conducted in 2012 disclosed a definite connection between the chance of falling and hearing loss though you may not have thought that there was a relationship between the two. Examining a sample of over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 and 69, investigators found that for every 10 dB increase in loss of hearing (for reference, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the chance of falling increased 1.4X. This connection held up even for people with mild loss of hearing: Those who had 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 would having problems hearing cause you to fall? Though our ears play a significant role in helping us balance, there are other reasons why loss of hearing could get you down (in this case, quite literally). Even though the reason for the individual’s falls wasn’t looked at in this study,, it was speculated by the authors that having problems hearing what’s around you (and missing a car honking or other significant sounds) may be one problem. But if you’re having difficulties paying attention to sounds around you, your split attention means you may be paying less attention to your physical environment and that may lead to a fall. What’s promising here is that dealing with hearing loss could possibly lessen your risk of having a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

Numerous studies (like this one from 2018) have revealed that loss of hearing is associated with high blood pressure and some (including this 2013 research) have observed that high blood pressure may actually accelerate age-related hearing loss. Even after controlling for variables such as noise exposure or if you smoke, the connection has been rather consistently discovered. Gender is the only variable that appears to matter: If you’re a male, the link between hearing loss and high blood pressure is even stronger.

Your ears are not part of your circulatory system, but they’re darn close to it: along with the many little blood vessels in your ear, two of the body’s main arteries go right by it. 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; it’s your pulse your hearing.) The principal theory behind why high blood pressure can quicken hearing loss is that high blood pressure can also cause permanent injury to your ears. Each beat has more force 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 medical interventions and lifestyle change. But if you suspect you’re suffering from loss of hearing even if you think you’re not old enough for the age-related problems, it’s a good move to consult a hearing care professional.

4: Dementia

Chances of dementia might be higher with loss of hearing. A 2013 study from Johns Hopkins University that was documented after about 2,000 people in their 70’s over the course of six years found that the risk of mental 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 10 years discovered that when the subject’s hearing got worse, the more likely it was that he or she would develop dementia. (Alzheimer’s was also discovered to have a similar connection, albeit a less statistically substantial one.) Based on these findings, moderate hearing loss puts you at three times the danger of someone who doesn’t have hearing loss; severe hearing loss raises the chance by 4 times.

But, even though experts have been able to document the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss, they still aren’t positive as to why this takes place. A common hypothesis is that having difficulty hearing can cause people to avoid social interactions, and that social withdrawal and lack of mental stimulation can be incapacitating. Another hypothesis is that hearing loss short circuits your brain. Essentially, trying to hear sounds around you exhausts your brain so you might not have much juice left for recalling things such as where you left your keys. Maintaining social ties and keeping the brain active and challenged could help here, but so can dealing with hearing loss. If you’re capable of hearing clearly, social situations are easier to handle, and you’ll be able to focus on the important things instead of attempting to understand what someone just said. So if you are dealing with hearing loss, you need to put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing test.

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