Let’s face it, there’s no escape from aging, and with it usually comes hearing loss. You can take some steps to look younger but you’re still getting older. But did you know that hearing loss has also been linked to health issues related to aging that are treatable, and in some cases, preventable? Let’s take a look at a few examples that may be surprising.
1. Your hearing could be impacted by diabetes
The fact that hearing loss and diabetes have a link is pretty well established. But why would you have a higher risk of developing hearing loss if you have diabetes? Science is at a bit of a loss here. Diabetes has been known to damage the kidneys, eyes, and extremities. Blood vessels in the inner ear might, theoretically, be getting destroyed in a similar way. But overall health management may also be a consideration. A 2015 study that looked at U.S. military veterans underscored the connection between hearing loss and diabetes, but in particular, it found that those with uncontrolled diabetes, in other words, people who are not controlling their blood sugar or alternatively managing the disease, suffered worse outcomes. If you are worried that you may be prediabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s important to talk with a physician and get your blood sugar screened. And, it’s a good idea to contact us if you think your hearing may be compromised.
2. Risk of hearing loss associated falls goes up
Why would having difficulty hearing make you fall? Even though our ears play an important role in helping us balance, there are other reasons why hearing loss may get you down (in this case, quite literally). A study was conducted on individuals who have hearing loss who have recently had a fall. Although this study didn’t investigate the cause of the subjects’ falls, the authors speculated that having trouble hearing what’s around you (and missing crucial sounds like a car honking) could be one issue. 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 trip and fall. The good news here is that managing hearing loss could potentially decrease your risk of suffering a fall.
3. Protect your hearing by treating high blood pressure
Multiple studies have shown that hearing loss is associated with high blood pressure, and some have discovered that high blood pressure may actually speed up age-related hearing loss. Obviously, this isn’t the kind of comforting news that makes your blood pressure go down. Even when variables such as noise exposure or smoking are taken into consideration, the connection has persistently been found. (Please don’t smoke.) The only variable that makes a difference seems to be sex: The link between hearing loss and high blood pressure is even stronger if you’re a man.
Your ears have a very close relation to your circulatory system. In addition to the many tiny blood vessels inside your ear, two of the body’s principal arteries go right by it. This is one reason why individuals who have high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is actually their own blood pumping. When your tinnitus symptoms are the result of your own pulse, it’s called pulsatile tinnitus. The principal theory why high blood pressure can bring about hearing loss is that it can actually do physical damage to the vessels in the ears. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force behind each beat. The small arteries in your ears could possibly be damaged as a result. High blood pressure is manageable 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. Hearing loss and dementia
Even though a strong connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss has been well established, scientists are still not completely certain what the connection is. The most widespread theory is that people with neglected hearing loss tend to withdraw from social interaction and become debilitated by lack of stimulation. Another theory is that hearing loss overloads 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 best thing you can do is treat your hearing loss. If you’re able to hear well, social scenarios are easier to handle, and you’ll be able to focus on the essential stuff instead of attempting to figure out what somebody just said.
If you’re worried that you might be dealing with hearing loss, make an appointment with us right away.