Aging is one of the most typical indicators of hearing loss, and let’s face it, try as we might, we can’t escape aging. Sure, dyeing your hair may make you look younger, but it doesn’t really change your age. But did you know that hearing loss has also been linked to health problems associated with aging that are treatable, and in some cases, avoidable? Here’s a look at some examples, #2 might come as a surprise.
1. Diabetes could affect your hearing
The fact that hearing loss and diabetes have a link is pretty well established. But why would diabetes give you an increased risk of experiencing hearing loss? Well, science doesn’t have all the solutions here. Diabetes is linked to a wide variety of health problems, 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 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 uncontrolled diabetes, in other words, people who are not managing their blood sugar or alternatively treating the disease, suffered worse outcomes. It’s important to get your blood sugar checked if you suspect you may have undiagnosed diabetes or are prediabetic. By the same token, if you have difficulty hearing, it’s a good plan to reach out to us.
2. Increased risk of falling associated with hearing loss
Why would having trouble hearing make you fall? Our sense of balance is, to some extent, regulated by our ears. But there are other reasons why falls are more likely if you have hearing loss. Individuals with hearing loss who have taken a fall were the participants of a recent study. Although this study didn’t investigate what had caused the subjects’ falls, the authors suspected that having difficulty hearing what’s around you (and missing important sounds like a car honking) could be one problem. But it might also go the other way, if difficulty hearing means you’re paying more attention to sounds than to your surroundings, it could be easy to trip and fall. Luckily, your danger of experiencing a fall is reduced by having your hearing loss treated.
3. Safeguard your hearing by managing 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 aging. Clearly, this isn’t the sort of comforting news that makes your blood pressure drop. But it’s a link that’s been discovered pretty consistently, even when controlling for variables such as noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. (You should never smoke!) Gender appears to be the only significant variable: If you’re a man, the connection between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even stronger.
Your ears aren’t part of your circulatory system, but they’re really close to it. Two of your body’s main arteries are positioned right by your ears and it contains many tiny blood vessels. The sound that individuals hear when they have tinnitus is frequently their own blood pumping due to high blood pressure. That’s why this type of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; you hear your pulse. But high blood pressure could also possibly cause physical harm to your ears, that’s the main theory behind why it would hasten hearing loss. Every beat of your heart will have more pressure if it’s pumping blood harder. That could potentially harm the smaller blood arteries inside of your ears. High blood pressure can be managed through both lifestyle modifications and medical treatments. 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 give us a call for a hearing exam.
4. Hearing loss and cognitive decline
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 successful at sussing out why the two are so strongly connected. The most prevalent concept is that people with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw from social interaction and become debilitated by lack of stimulus. The stress of hearing loss overloading the brain is another theory. In other words, because your brain is putting so much energy into understanding the sounds around you, you may not have much energy left for remembering things like where you put your keys. Maintaining social ties and doing crosswords or “brain games” could be beneficial, but so can treating hearing loss. If you’re able to hear clearly, social situations are easier to deal with, and you’ll be able to focus on the important stuff instead of trying to figure out what someone just said.
Make an appointment with us right away if you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss.