Aging is one of the most common indicators of hearing loss, and let’s face it, try as we might, we can’t avoid aging. You can take some steps to look younger but you’re still getting older. But did you realize that hearing loss has also been connected to health issues associated with aging that are treatable, and in some instances, preventable? Here’s a look at a few examples, #2 may come as a surprise.
1. Diabetes could impact your hearing
The fact that hearing loss and diabetes have a connection is pretty well established. But why would diabetes give you an increased risk of developing hearing loss? Well, science doesn’t provide all the answers here. Diabetes is linked to a wide variety of health problems, and specifically, can cause physical damage to the eyes, kidneys, 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 linked to general health management. 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 unchecked diabetes, in other words, people who are not controlling their blood sugar or alternatively managing the disease, suffered worse outcomes. It’s significant to get your blood sugar checked if you believe you might have overlooked diabetes or are prediabetic. And, it’s a good plan to get in touch with us if you think your hearing might be compromised.
2. Danger of hearing loss related falls increases
Why would having a hard time hearing cause a fall? Although our ears play an important part in helping us balance, there are other reasons why hearing loss could get you down (in this instance, quite literally). Research was carried out on individuals who have hearing loss who have recently had a fall. Though this study didn’t investigate the cause of the subjects’ falls, the authors speculated that having difficulty hearing what’s around you (and missing important sounds like a car honking) could be one issue. At the same time, if you’re struggling to pay close attention to the sounds around you, you may be distracted to your environment and that might also result in a higher chance of falling. The good news here is that treating hearing loss could potentially reduce your risk of having a fall.
3. Protect your hearing by controlling high blood pressure
High blood pressure and hearing loss have been closely linked in some studies indicating that high blood pressure might accelerate hearing loss due to the aging process. This kind of news may make you feel like your blood pressure is actually rising. But it’s a connection that’s been discovered pretty consistently, even when controlling for variables like noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. (Please don’t smoke.) Gender seems to be the only appreciable variable: If you’re a male, the connection between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even stronger.
Your ears aren’t a component of your circulatory system, but they’re darn close to it. Two of your body’s main arteries run right by your ears and it consists of many tiny blood vessels. This is one reason why people with high blood pressure frequently experience tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is actually their own blood pumping. That’s why this type of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; you hear your pulse. But high blood pressure could also potentially result in physical damage to your ears, that’s the main theory behind why it would speed up hearing loss. Every beat of your heart will have more force if it’s pumping blood harder. That could potentially damage the smaller blood arteries in your ears. Through medical intervention and lifestyle change, blood pressure can be managed. But even if you don’t feel like you’re old enough for age-related hearing loss, if you’re having difficulty hearing, you should call us for a hearing exam.
4. Cognitive decline and hearing loss
It’s scary stuff, but it’s significant to mention that while the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline has been well documented, scientists have been less productive at figuring out why the two are so strongly linked. The most widespread concept is that people with neglected hearing loss often retreat from social interaction and become debilitated by lack of stimulation. Another theory is that hearing loss taxes 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. Preserving social ties and doing crosswords or “brain games” could be helpful, but so can managing 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.
Schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible if you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss.