Hearing Health Blog

Doctor speaks with patient about medical conditions related to hearing loss and tinnitus.

Aging is one of the most typical signals of hearing loss and let’s face it, try as we may, we can’t stop aging. But were you aware loss of hearing can lead to between
loss issues
that can be managed, and in certain scenarios, avoidable? Here’s a peek at some cases that will surprise you.

1: Diabetes

Over 5,000 American adults were examined in a 2008 study which found that diabetes diagnosed individuals were two times as likely to have some degree of hearing loss when tested with low or mid-frequency sounds. High frequency impairment was also possible but not so severe. It was also found by researchers that people who struggled with high blood sugar levels but not so high as to be defined as diabetes, put simply, pre-diabetic, were more likely by 30 % than people with healthy blood sugar levels, to have hearing loss. A more recent 2013 meta-study (you got it, a study of studies) determined that the connection between diabetes and hearing loss was persistent, even when when all other variables are accounted for.

So it’s well established that diabetes is linked to a higher chance of loss of hearing. But why should you be at greater risk of getting diabetes just because you suffer from loss of hearing? The reason isn’t really well comprehended. Diabetes is associated with a broad range of health concerns, and in particular, can result in physical injury to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One hypothesis is that the condition could impact the ears in a similar way, blood vessels in the ears being harmed. But it could also be related to overall health management. A 2015 study that evaluated U.S. military veterans underscored the link between loss of hearing and diabetes, but in particular, it discovered that people with uncontrolled diabetes, in essence, people suffered even worse if they had untreated and uncontrolled. It’s necessary to get your blood sugar tested and speak with a doctor if you think you may have undiagnosed diabetes or may be pre-diabetic. It’s a good idea to get your hearing tested if you’re having trouble hearing also.

2: Falling

You could have a bad fall. It’s not exactly a health issue, because it’s not vertigo but it can lead to many other complications. And while you may not realize that your hearing could impact your likelihood of tripping or slipping, research from 2012 uncovered a considerable connection between hearing loss and risk of a fall. While investigating over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, scientists discovered that for every 10 dB increase in hearing loss (as an example, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the danger of falling increased 1.4X. This connection held up even for people with mild hearing loss: Those who had 25 dB hearing loss had 3 times the likelihood than those with normal hearing to have fallen within the last year.

Why should having difficulty hearing cause you to fall? Even though our ears have an important role to play in helping us balance, there are other reasons why hearing loss could get you down (in this case, very literally). While this research didn’t delve into what was the cause of the participant’s falls, the authors theorized that having problems hearing what’s around you (and missing a car honking or other significant sounds) may be one issue. But if you’re struggling to pay attention to sounds around you, your split attention means you may not be paying attention to your physical environment and that may lead to a fall. The good news here is that managing hearing loss might possibly lessen your risk of suffering a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

A variety of studies (including this one from 2018) have found that hearing loss is linked to high blood pressure and some (like this 2013 study) have established that high blood pressure could actually quicken age-related hearing loss. Even after controlling for variables such as if you’re a smoker or noise exposure, the link has been rather consistently found. Gender is the only variable that seems to matter: If you’re a man, the connection between loss of hearing and high blood pressure is even stronger.

Your ears aren’t part of your circulatory system, but they’re pretty close to it: along with the many little blood vessels inside your ear, two of the body’s main arteries go right near it. This is one explanation why individuals with 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 called pulsatile tinnitus; it’s your pulse your hearing.) But high blood pressure might also possibly cause physical damage to your ears which is the main theory behind why it would speed up hearing loss. Each beat has more pressure if your heart is pumping harder. That could potentially damage the smaller blood arteries inside your ears. lifestyle changes and medical intervention, high blood pressure can be controlled. But if you suspect you’re experiencing loss of hearing even if you believe you’re not old enough for the age-related stuff, it’s a good decision to speak with a hearing specialist.

4: Dementia

Danger of dementia might be higher with hearing loss. A six year study, begun in 2013 that analyzed 2,000 people in their 70’s revealed that the chance of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with only minor loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). 2011 research by the same researchers which tracked people over more than a decade revealed that when the subject’s hearing got worse, the more likely it was that he or she would get dementia. (They also uncovered a similar connection to Alzheimer’s Disease, though a less statistically substantial one.) Based on these conclusions, moderate loss of hearing puts you at 3 times the risk of a person without hearing loss; severe hearing loss nearly quintuples one’s risk.

But, even though experts have been successful at documenting the connection between cognitive decline and loss of hearing, they still aren’t positive as to why this happens. A common hypothesis is that having difficulty hearing can cause people to avoid social situations, and that social withdrawal and lack of mental stimulation can be debilitating. A different theory is that hearing loss short circuits your brain. In other words, trying to perceive sounds around you exhausts your brain so you may not have much energy left for remembering things like where you put your keys. Staying in close communication with friends and family and doing crosswords or brain games could help here, but so can treating loss of hearing. Social situations become much more overwhelming when you are attempting to hear what people are saying. So if you are dealing with loss of hearing, you should put a plan of action in place including having a hearing test.

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss! Call Us