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

Aging is one of the most common indicators of hearing loss and truth be told, as hard as we might try, aging can’t be escaped. But were you aware hearing loss has also been linked to between
loss concerns
that can be treated, and in some cases, preventable? You might be surprised by these examples.

1: Diabetes

A widely-quoted 2008 study that examined over 5,000 American adults revealed that individuals who had been diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to have mild or greater hearing loss when tested with mid or low-frequency sounds. High frequency impairment was also likely but not so severe. It was also found by researchers that people who struggled with high blood sugar levels but not so high as to be diagnosed with diabetes, put simply, pre-diabetic, were 30 percent more likely than people with normal blood sugar levels, to have loss of hearing. A more recent 2013 meta-study (you got it, a study of studies) discovered that there was a persistent link between loss of hearing and diabetes, even while taking into account other variables.

So the association between hearing loss and diabetes is pretty well founded. But why would diabetes put you at greater risk of getting loss of hearing? The answer isn’t really well understood. Diabetes is associated with a wide variety of health issues, and in particular, the kidneys, extremities, and eyes can be harmed physically. One theory is that the disease might affect the ears in a similar way, blood vessels in the ears being harmed. But it may also be related to overall health management. A 2015 study underscored the link between loss of hearing and diabetes in U.S veterans, but in particular, it discovered that people with unchecked diabetes, in other words, that those with uncontrolled and untreated diabetes, it discovered, suffered more. It’s essential to have your blood sugar analyzed and speak to a doctor if you believe you might have undiagnosed diabetes or may be pre-diabetic. It’s a good idea to get your hearing checked if you’re having trouble hearing too.

2: Falling

You could have a bad fall. It’s not really a health issue, because it’s not vertigo but it can trigger numerous other difficulties. Research conducted in 2012 discovered a definite link between the risk of falling and loss of hearing though you might not have suspected that there was a link between the two. While examining over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, investigators found that for every 10 dB rise in hearing loss (as an example, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the chance of falling increased 1.4X. Even for people with minor hearing loss the relationship held up: Those who had 25 dB hearing loss had 3 times the likelihood than those who had normal hearing to have had a fall within the last 12 months.

Why would having problems hearing cause you to fall? Though our ears have a significant role to play in helping us balance, there are other reasons why hearing loss could get you down (in this case, quite literally). Although this research didn’t go into what was the cause of the subject’s falls, the authors theorized that having problems hearing what’s around 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 hearing loss could possibly minimize your chance of having a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

A variety of studies (such as this one from 2018) have revealed that hearing loss is linked to high blood pressure and some (including this 2013 research) have established that high blood pressure might actually accelerate age-related hearing loss. It’s a link that’s been found 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: If you’re a man, the connection between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even stronger.

Your ears are not part of your circulatory system, but they’re pretty close to it: Two main arteries are very near to the ears not to mention the tiny blood vessels inside them. This is one reason why people with high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, it’s actually their own blood pumping that they are hearing. (That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; it’s your pulse your hearing.) But high blood pressure may also potentially be the cause of physical injury to your ears which is the leading theory behind why it would accelerate loss of hearing. Each beat has more pressure if your heart is pumping harder. The smaller blood vessels in your ears may possibly be damaged by this. High blood pressure is manageable, through both medical interventions and lifestyle change. But if you think you’re suffering from loss of hearing even if you believe you’re too young for the age-related stuff, it’s a good move to consult a hearing care professional.

4: Dementia

Loss of hearing might put you at higher danger of dementia. A six year study, started in 2013 that analyzed 2,000 people in their 70’s found that the risk of mental impairment increased by 24% with only minimal hearing loss (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). It was also found, in a 2011 study conducted by the same group of researchers, that the chance of dementia raised proportionally the worse hearing loss was. (Alzheimer’s was also discovered to have a similar connection, though a less statistically significant one.) moderate loss of hearing, based on these findings, puts you at 3X the risk of a person with no loss of hearing; severe loss of hearing raises the chance by 4 times.

But, even though scientists have been able to document the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss, they still don’t know why this takes place. If you can’t hear very well, it’s overwhelming to socialize with people so the theory is you will avoid social situations, and that social isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be debilitating. Another theory is that hearing loss short circuits your brain. Essentially, because your brain is putting so much of its recourses into comprehending the sounds near you, you might not have much juice left for remembering things like where you put your medication. Staying in close communication with friends and family and keeping the brain active and challenged could help here, but so can dealing with hearing loss. Social circumstances become much more difficult 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 having a hearing exam.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC