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

Aging is one of the most common hearing loss clues and let’s face it, as hard as we may try, aging can’t be stopped. But were you aware hearing loss can lead to health problems that are treatable, and in many cases, avoidable? Here’s a peek at some cases that may surprise you.

1: Diabetes

A widely-reported 2008 study that evaluated over 5,000 American adults found that diabetes diagnosed individuals were twice as likely to have some amount of hearing loss when low or mid frequency sounds were utilized to test them. High frequency impairment was also likely but less severe. The experts also observed that subjects who were pre-diabetic, in a nutshell, those with blood sugar levels that are elevated, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, were 30 % more likely to have loss of hearing than individuals who had normal blood sugar. A more recent 2013 meta-study (you got it, a study of studies) revealed that the relationship between diabetes and loss of hearing was consistent, even when taking into consideration other variables.

So the connection between hearing loss and diabetes is pretty well founded. But why would diabetes put you at higher chance of suffering from hearing loss? The reason isn’t really well comprehended. Diabetes is connected to a wide range of health concerns, and in particular, can cause physical harm to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One theory is that the condition may impact the ears in a similar way, blood vessels in the ears being harmed. But general health management could be at fault. A 2015 study underscored the link between diabetes and loss of hearing in U.S veterans, but most notably, it found that those with unchecked diabetes, in essence, that those with untreated and uncontrolled diabetes, it discovered, suffered more. If you are concerned that you may be pre-diabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s important to consult with a doctor and get your blood sugar checked. It’s a smart idea to get your hearing examined if you’re having trouble hearing also.

2: Falling

OK, this is not exactly a health problem, since we aren’t discussing vertigo, but experiencing a bad fall can start a cascade of health issues. Research carried out in 2012 showed a strong link between the danger of falling and hearing loss though you might not have thought that there was a connection between the two. While examining over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, investigators found that for every 10 dB increase in loss of hearing (as an example, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the danger of falling increased 1.4X. This relationship held up even for individuals with mild loss of hearing: Within the last twelve months individuals who had 25 dB of hearing loss were more likely to have fallen than individuals with normal hearing.

Why would you fall just because you are having trouble hearing? There are numerous reasons why hearing issues can lead to a fall other than the role your ears play in balance. While the reason for the subject’s falls wasn’t looked at in this study,, the authors speculated that having difficulty hearing what’s going on around you you (and missing a car honking or other significant sounds) could be one issue. But it could also go the other way if problems hearing means you’re paying more attention to sounds than to your surroundings, it may be easy to trip and fall. The good news here is that managing loss of hearing may potentially lessen your chance of having a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

Several studies (including this one from 2018) have demonstrated that loss of hearing is connected to high blood pressure and some (like this 2013 study) have found that high blood pressure may actually quicken age-related hearing loss. It’s a connection that’s been seen pretty consistently, even while controlling for variables like noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. Gender is the only variable that seems to matter: The connection between high blood pressure and hearing loss, if your a guy, is even stronger.

Your ears are not part of your circulatory system, but they’re darn close to it: Two main arteries are very close 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, 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 pulse.) The leading theory behind why high blood pressure could speed up loss of hearing is that high blood pressure can also cause permanent injury to your ears. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more pressure behind each beat. The smaller blood vessels in your ears may possibly be damaged by this. lifestyle changes and medical intervention, high blood pressure can be controlled. But if you suspect you’re experiencing loss of hearing even if you think you’re too young for the age-related stuff, it’s a good decision to consult a hearing care professional.

4: Dementia

Hearing loss might put you at higher risk of dementia. A six year study, begun in 2013 that followed 2,000 people in their 70’s found that the danger of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with only minimal loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). A 2011 study by the same researchers which followed subjects over more than 10 years discovered that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more likely it was that he or she would develop dementia. (Alzheimer’s was also found to have a similar link, even though it was less significant.) moderate loss of hearing, based on these findings, puts you at 3 times the risk of a person without hearing loss; one’s danger is nearly quintupled with extreme loss of hearing.

However, though experts have been successful at documenting the link between cognitive decline and loss of hearing, they still don’t know why this occurs. If you can’t hear very well, it’s hard to socialize with people so in theory you will avoid social situations, and that social isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be debilitating. A different hypothesis is that hearing loss overloads your brain. In essence, trying to hear sounds around you fatigues your brain so you may not have much juice left for recalling things such as where you put your medication. Maintaining social ties and doing crosswords or brain games could help here, but so can treating loss of hearing. Social circumstances become much more confusing when you are contending to hear what people are saying. So if you are coping with hearing loss, you should put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing test.

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