Your hearing health is connected to many other health conditions, from depression to dementia. Here are just a few of the ways your hearing is connected to your health.
1. Diabetes Affects Your Hearing
A widely-cited study that looked at more than 5,000 adults determined that people who had been diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to endure mild or worse hearing loss 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, in other words, those with blood sugar levels that are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes were 30 percent more likely to have hearing loss than people with regular blood sugar levels. A more recent meta-study discovered that the connection between diabetes and hearing loss was consistent, even when controlling for other variables.
So it’s pretty established that diabetes is connected to an increased danger of hearing impairment. But the real question is why is there a connection. Science is at a bit of a loss here. A whole range of health concerns have been linked to diabetes, including damage to the limbs, kidneys, and eyes. It’s feasible that diabetes has a similar harmful affect on the blood vessels of the inner ear. But it might also be related to overall health management. Research that observed military veterans underscored the connection between hearing loss and diabetes, but in particular, it found that those with uncontrolled diabetes, in other words, individuals who are not managing their blood sugar or otherwise taking care of the disease, suffered worse consequences. If you are worried that you might be pre-diabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s important to consult with a doctor and get your blood sugar tested.
2. High Blood Pressure Can Harm Your Ears
It is well known that high blood pressure has a connection to, if not accelerates, hearing loss. The results are consistent even when taking into consideration variables such as noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. The only variable that appears to make a difference is gender: If you’re a man, the connection between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even greater.
The ears and the circulatory system have a close relationship: Two of your body’s main arteries go directly by 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. That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; you hear your pulse. The leading theory why high blood pressure would accelerate hearing loss is that high blood pressure can lead to physical damage to your ears. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force behind each beat. That could potentially injure the smaller blood arteries in your ears. High blood pressure is treatable through both lifestyle changes and medical interventions. 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 Impairment
You might have a greater chance of dementia if you have hearing impairment. Research from Johns Hopkins University that followed almost 2,000 patients over the course of six years discovered that the risk of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with just mild hearing loss (about 25 dB). Another study by the same researchers, which followed subjects over more than a decade, found that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more likely that he or she would develop dementia. This research also revealed that Alzheimer’s had a similar connection to hearing loss. Moderate hearing loss puts you at 3 times higher risk, based on these findings, than somebody with normal hearing. Severe hearing loss puts you at nearly 4x the risk.
It’s crucial, then, to get your hearing examined. Your health depends on it.