Aging is one of the most typical hearing loss clues and truth be told, as hard as we might try, we can’t escape aging. But did you know that loss of hearing can lead to between
loss problems that can be treated, and in certain situations, can be prevented? You might be surprised by these examples.
Over 5,000 American adults were evaluated in a 2008 study which revealed that people who had been diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to have mild or greater hearing loss when screened with mid or low-frequency sounds. Impairment was also more probable with high-frequency sounds, but not as severe. It was also revealed by investigators 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 who had healthy blood sugar levels, to have hearing loss. A more recent 2013 meta-study (yup, a study of studies) revealed that there was a consistent association between loss of hearing and diabetes, even while taking into consideration other variables.
So it’s well established that diabetes is linked to a higher danger of loss of hearing. But why should diabetes put you at greater danger of getting hearing loss? The answer isn’t really well comprehended. Diabetes is linked to a number of health problems, and notably, the kidneys, extremities, and eyes can be physically damaged. One hypothesis is that the disease could impact the ears in a similar way, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But general health management may be the culprit. A 2015 study that evaluated U.S. military veterans highlighted the connection between loss of hearing and diabetes, but most notably, it revealed that individuals with unchecked diabetes, in other words, that those with uncontrolled and untreated diabetes, it found, suffered worse. It’s essential to get your blood sugar analyzed and talk with a doctor if you think you could have undiagnosed diabetes or might be pre-diabetic. Similarly, if you’re having trouble hearing, it’s a good idea to get it tested.
You could have a bad fall. It’s not exactly a health issue, because it isn’t vertigo but it can trigger numerous other complications. And though you may not realize that your hearing would affect your possibility of slipping or tripping, research from 2012 found a considerable connection between hearing loss and fall risk. While investigating over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, researchers found that for every 10 dB increase in loss of hearing (for reference, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the danger of falling increased 1.4X. Even for those with minor loss of hearing the relationship held up: 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 would you fall just because you are having problems hearing? There are several reasons why hearing struggles can lead to a fall besides the role your ears have in balance. Though this study didn’t delve into what was the cause of the participant’s falls, the authors theorized that having problems hearing what’s around you (and missing a car honking or other important sounds) might be one problem. But if you’re struggling to pay attention to sounds near you, your split attention means you might not be paying attention to your physical environment and that could lead to a fall. What’s promising here is that dealing with hearing loss may possibly reduce your chance of having a fall.
3: High Blood Pressure
A number of studies (like this one from 2018) have demonstrated that loss of hearing is linked to high blood pressure and some (including this 2013 study) have observed that high blood pressure could actually speed up age-related hearing loss. Even after controlling for variables including noise exposure or if you smoke, the link has been fairly persistently revealed. The only variable that makes a difference appears to be sex: The link between high blood pressure and loss of hearing, if your a guy, is even stronger.
Your ears aren’t part of your circulatory system, but they’re darn close to it: Two main arteries are very near to the ears as well as the tiny blood vessels inside them. This is one explanation why people who have high blood pressure often experience 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 could also possibly be the cause of physical damage to your ears which is the leading theory behind why it would speed up hearing loss. Each beat has more pressure if your heart is pumping harder. The smaller blood vessels in your ears may potentially be damaged by this. High blood pressure is controllable, through both lifestyle changes and medical interventions. But if you believe you’re suffering with hearing loss even if you believe you’re too young for the age-related problems, it’s a good move to consult a hearing care professional.
Hearing loss might put you at higher danger of dementia. A 2013 study from Johns Hopkins University that was documented after almost 2,000 people in their 70’s over the course of six years discovered that the chance of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with just slight loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). 2011 research by the same research group which analyzed subjects over more than 10 years found that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more probably it was that they would get dementia. (They also discovered a similar link to Alzheimer’s Disease, though a less statistically substantial one.) moderate hearing loss, based on these findings, puts you at 3X the danger of someone with no hearing loss; one’s chance is nearly quintupled with severe hearing loss.
It’s frightening information, but it’s essential to recognize that while the link between loss of hearing and mental decline has been well recognized, researchers have been less successful at figuring out why the two are so solidly connected. 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 isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be debilitating. A different theory is that loss of hearing overloads your brain. Essentially, trying to hear sounds around you fatigues your brain so you might not have very much juice left for recalling things such as where you put your medication. Staying in close communication with friends and family and doing crosswords or brain games could help here, but so can dealing with loss of hearing. If you’re able to hear clearly, social situations are easier to handle, and you’ll be capable of focusing on the important stuff instead of trying to understand what someone just said. So if you are dealing with hearing loss, you should put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing exam.