Aging is one of the most typical indicators of hearing loss, and let’s face it, try as we might, we can’t escape aging. You can take some steps to look younger but you’re still aging. But did you know that hearing loss has also been linked to health issues related to aging that are treatable, and in some cases, avoidable? Let’s have a look at some examples that may be surprising.
1. Your hearing can be affected by diabetes
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 developing hearing loss? Well, science doesn’t have all the answers here. Diabetes is known to harm the kidneys, eyes, and extremities. One idea is that the condition may affect the ears in a similar way, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But it could also be related to overall health management. A 2015 study that looked at U.S. military veterans underscored the connection between hearing loss and diabetes, but specifically, it found that those with uncontrolled diabetes, in other words, individuals who aren’t controlling their blood sugar or otherwise managing the disease, suffered worse outcomes. If you are worried that you may be prediabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s important to speak to a doctor and have your blood sugar examined. And, it’s a good plan to get in touch with us if you think your hearing may be compromised.
2. Danger of hearing loss related falls increases
Why would having trouble hearing make you fall? Our sense of balance is, to some degree, regulated by our ears. But there are other reasons why falls are more likely if you have hearing loss. People with hearing loss who have had a fall were the participants of a recent study. Though this study didn’t investigate the cause of the subjects’ falls, the authors suspected that having trouble hearing what’s around you (and missing crucial sounds such as a car honking) could be one problem. At the same time, if you’re working hard to pay close attention to the sounds around you, you may be distracted to your environment and that might also result in a higher risk of having a fall. The good news here is that treating hearing loss could potentially reduce your risk of having a fall.
3. Treat high blood pressure to protect your hearing
Multiple studies have shown that hearing loss is linked to high blood pressure, and some have found that high blood pressure might actually accelerate age-related hearing loss. Clearly, this is not the kind of comforting news that makes your blood pressure drop. But it’s a link that’s been discovered pretty consistently, even when controlling for variables such as noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. (Please don’t smoke.) Gender seems to be the only significant variable: If you’re a male, the connection between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even stronger.
Your ears have a close relation to your circulatory system. Two of your body’s principal arteries are positioned right near your ears and it consists of many tiny blood vessels. This is one reason why people who have high blood pressure often experience tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is actually their own blood pumping. That’s why this kind of tinnitus is known as pulsatile tinnitus; you hear your pulse. The primary theory why high blood pressure can cause hearing loss is that it can actually do physical harm to the vessels in the ears. Every beat of your heart will have more force if it’s pumping blood harder. The small arteries in your ears could possibly be harmed as a result. High blood pressure can be managed through both lifestyle changes and medical interventions. But even if you don’t feel like you’re old enough for age-related hearing loss, if you’re having trouble hearing, you should call us for a hearing exam.
4. Cognitive decline and hearing loss
It’s scary stuff, but it’s important to note that while the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline has been well recognized, scientists have been less productive at figuring out why the two are so powerfully linked. A common theory is that having difficulty hearing can cause people to stay away from social situations and that social withdrawal, and lack of mental stimulation, can be incapacitating. Another concept is that hearing loss taxes your brain. When your brain is working overtime to process sound, there may not be much brainpower left for things like memory. Playing “brain games” and keeping your social life active can be really helpful but the number one thing you can do is manage your hearing loss. Social situations will be easier when you can hear clearly and instead of struggling to hear what people are saying, you can focus on the essential stuff.
Make an appointment with us as soon as possible if you think you may be experiencing hearing loss.