From depression to dementia, many other health conditions are connected to your hearing health. Here are just a few of the ways your hearing is connected to your health.
1. Diabetes Impacts Your Hearing
A widely-cited study that evaluated over 5,000 adults found that people who had been diagnosed with diabetes were twice as likely to experience mild or worse hearing impairment when tested with low- or mid-frequency sounds. With high-frequency sounds, hearing loss was not as severe but was also more likely. The researchers also found that subjects who were pre-diabetic, put simply, those with blood sugar levels that are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes were 30% more likely to have hearing impairment than those with regular blood sugar levels. And even when controlling for other variables, a more recent meta-study discovered a consistent connection between diabetes and hearing loss.
So it’s pretty established that diabetes is connected to an increased risk of hearing loss. But why would diabetes put you at a higher risk of suffering from hearing loss? When it comes to this, science doesn’t really have the answers. A whole variety of health concerns have been linked to diabetes, including damage to the limbs, kidneys, and eyes. It’s possible that diabetes has a similar harmful affect on the blood vessels of the inner ear. But it may also be associated with overall health management. Research that looked at military veterans underscored the link between hearing impairment and diabetes, but in particular, it found that those with unchecked diabetes, in other words, people who are not managing their blood sugar or otherwise taking care of the disease, suffered worse outcomes. It’s important to have a doctor test your blood sugar if you believe you might have undiagnosed diabetes or are pre-diabetic.
2. Your Ears Can be Damaged by High Blood Pressure
It is well established that high blood pressure has a connection to, if not accelerates, hearing loss. Even when adjusting for variables such as whether you smoke or your amount of noise exposure, the results are solid. The only variable that appears to matter is gender: If you’re a man, the link between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even stronger.
The circulatory system and the ears have a close relationship: Two of your body’s main arteries go directly past your ears besides the presence of tiny blood vessels in your ears. This is one reason why those with high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is actually their own blood pumping. Because you can hear your own pulse with this kind of tinnitus, it’s called pulsatile tinnitus. But high blood pressure could also potentially cause physical damage to your ears, that’s the main theory behind why it would speed up hearing loss. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force with each beat. The smaller blood vessels in your ears can be damaged by this. Both medical intervention and lifestyle changes can be used to help manage high blood pressure. But if you think you’re suffering from hearing impairment, even if you think you’re too young for age-related hearing loss, you need to make an appointment to see us.
3. Dementia And Hearing Loss
You may have a higher risk of dementia if you have hearing impairment. Research from Johns Hopkins University that followed almost 2,000 patients over six years discovered that the chance of cognitive deterioration increased by 24% with just mild hearing impairment (about 25 dB). Another study by the same researchers, which followed subjects over more than 10 years, found that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more likely that he or she would develop dementia. These studies also revealed that Alzheimer’s had a similar connection to hearing loss. Moderate hearing loss puts you at 3 times higher risk, according to these findings, than somebody with functional hearing. The risk increases to 4 times with extreme hearing loss.
The truth is, if you’re suffering from hearing loss, you need to get it evaluated and treated. It’s about your state of health.