Aging is one of the most prevalent indicators of hearing loss, and let’s face it, try as we might, we can’t avoid aging. Sure, coloring your hair might make you look younger, but it doesn’t actually change your age. But did you realize that hearing loss has also been connected to health problems associated with aging that are treatable, and in some instances, avoidable? Let’s take 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 pretty well established. But why would diabetes put you at a higher risk of suffering from hearing loss? Science is at somewhat of a loss here. Diabetes is linked to a wide variety of health issues, and specifically, can cause physical harm to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One theory is that the condition may impact the ears in a similar way, destroying blood vessels in the inner ear. But general health management could also be a factor. A 2015 study that looked at U.S. military veterans highlighted the connection between hearing loss and diabetes, but specifically, it found that those with uncontrolled diabetes, in other words, individuals who are not managing their blood sugar or otherwise managing the disease, suffered worse outcomes. If you are concerned that you might be prediabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s essential to speak to a physician and get your blood sugar screened. By the same token, if you have difficulty hearing, it’s a good idea to contact us.
2. Risk of hearing loss related falls goes up
Why would having a hard time hearing make you fall? Our sense of balance is, to some extent, regulated by our ears. But there are other reasons why falling is more likely if you have hearing loss. Participants with hearing loss who have had a fall were the subjects of a recent study. The study didn’t go into detail about the cause of the falls but it did conjecture that missing essential sounds, such as a car honking, could be a large part of the cause. But it could also go the other way, if difficulty hearing means you’re paying more attention to sounds than to your environment, it could be easy to stumble and fall. Fortunately, your danger of experiencing a fall is reduced by having your hearing loss treated.
3. Safeguard your hearing by treating high blood pressure
Multiple studies have shown that hearing loss is associated with high blood pressure, and some have found that high blood pressure could actually speed up age-related hearing loss. This kind of news may make you feel like your blood pressure is actually going up. But it’s a connection that’s been found fairly consistently, even when controlling for variables such as noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. (Please don’t smoke.) The only variable that is important seems to be gender: If you’re a man, the link between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even stronger.
Your ears have a close relation to your circulatory system. In addition to the many tiny blood vessels inside of your ear, two of the body’s primary arteries run right by it. The noise that people hear when they have tinnitus is often their own blood pumping as a consequence of high blood pressure. When your tinnitus symptoms are due to your own pulse, it’s known as pulsatile tinnitus. But high blood pressure could also possibly cause physical harm to your ears, that’s the main theory as to why it would speed up hearing loss. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more pressure behind each beat. The small arteries in your ears could possibly be damaged as a consequence. Through medical treatment and lifestyle change, it is possible to manage high blood pressure. But even if you don’t think you’re old enough for age-related hearing loss, if you’re having difficulty hearing, you should call us for a hearing exam.
4. Dementia and hearing loss
It’s scary stuff, but it’s important to mention that while the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline has been well recognized, scientists have been less productive at sussing out why the two are so strongly linked. The most widespread theory is that people with untreated hearing loss often retreat from social interaction and become debilitated by lack of stimulation. 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 might not have much juice left for remembering things like where you left your keys. Playing “brain games” and keeping your social life intact can be really helpful but the number one thing you can do is manage your hearing loss. If you’re able to hear well, social situations are easier to handle, and you’ll be able to focus on the essential stuff instead of trying to figure out what someone just said.
Schedule an appointment with us right away if you think you may be experiencing hearing loss.