Let’s face it, there’s no escape from aging, and with it often comes hearing loss. Sure, coloring your hair may make you look younger, but it doesn’t actually change your age. But you might not be aware that numerous treatable health conditions have also been related to hearing loss. Let’s take a look at some examples that might be surprising.
1. Diabetes could impact your hearing
The fact that hearing loss and diabetes have a link is fairly well understood. But why would diabetes put you at an increased risk of suffering from hearing loss? Science is at a bit of a loss here. Diabetes is known to damage the kidneys, eyes, and extremities. One theory is that the condition may impact the ears in a similar way, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But it could also be linked to overall health management. A 2015 study that looked at U.S. military veterans underscored the link between hearing loss and diabetes, but specifically, it found that those with unchecked diabetes, in other words, people who aren’t controlling their blood sugar or otherwise managing the disease, suffered worse outcomes. It’s significant to get your blood sugar checked if you think you might have undiagnosed diabetes or are prediabetic. By the same token, if you have difficulty hearing, it’s a good idea to contact us.
2. Increased danger of falling associated with hearing loss
Why would having a hard time hearing cause a fall? Even though our ears play an important part in helping us balance, there are other reasons why hearing loss might get you down (in this case, very literally). Research was carried out on individuals with hearing loss who have recently fallen. Although this study didn’t explore what had caused the subjects’ falls, the authors speculated that having difficulty hearing what’s around you (and missing important sounds such as a car honking) could be one problem. But it could also go the other way, if difficulty hearing means you’re paying more attention to sounds than to your surroundings, it could be easy to stumble and fall. Luckily, your risk of having a fall is decreased by getting your hearing loss treated.
3. Treat high blood pressure to protect your hearing
High blood pressure and hearing loss have been closely linked in some studies indicating that high blood pressure might speed up hearing loss due to aging. Obviously, this is not the sort of reassuring news that makes your blood pressure drop. But it’s a link that’s been discovered fairly consistently, even when controlling for variables like noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. (Please don’t smoke.) The only variable that makes a difference appears to be sex: If you’re a male, the connection between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even stronger.
Your ears aren’t part of your circulatory system, but they’re darn close to it. Along with the many tiny blood vessels inside of your ear, two of the body’s principal arteries run right by it. The sound that people hear when they have tinnitus is frequently their own blood pumping as a consequence of high blood pressure. That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; you hear your pulse. But high blood pressure could also potentially result in physical harm to your ears, that’s the leading theory as to why it would accelerate hearing loss. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force behind each beat. That could potentially harm the smaller blood arteries in your ears. High blood pressure can be managed through both lifestyle improvements and medical interventions. But even if you don’t feel like you’re old enough for age-related hearing loss, if you’re having difficulty hearing, you should give us a call for a hearing exam.
4. Hearing loss and cognitive decline
It’s scary stuff, but it’s significant to mention that while the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline has been well recognized, scientists have been less successful at figuring out why the two are so strongly linked. A prevalent idea is that having difficulty hearing can cause people to stay away from social situations and that social withdrawal, and lack of cognitive stimulation, can be debilitating. Another theory is that hearing loss overloads your brain. In other words, because your brain is putting so much energy into understanding the sounds around you, you may not have much juice left for remembering things like where you put your keys. Maintaining social ties and doing crosswords or “brain games” could be beneficial, but so can managing hearing loss. If you’re able to hear clearly, social situations are easier to handle, and you’ll be able to focus on the essential stuff instead of attempting to figure out what someone just said.
If you’re worried that you may be dealing with hearing loss, make an appointment with us right away.