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

Aging is one of the most typical hearing loss clues and let’s be honest, as hard as we might try, we can’t escape aging. But did you recognize that loss of hearing can lead to between
loss concerns
that are treatable, and in many cases, preventable? Here’s a peek at some cases that may surprise you.

1: Diabetes

A widely-cited 2008 study that studied over 5,000 American adults found that individuals who had been diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to suffer from mild or greater hearing loss when tested with mid or low-frequency sounds. High frequency impairment was also possible but not so severe. It was also revealed by analysts that people who had high blood sugar levels but not high enough to be defined as diabetes, put simply, pre-diabetic, were more likely by 30 % than those with normal blood sugar levels, to have hearing loss. A more recent 2013 meta-study (you got it, a study of studies) found that there was a absolutely consistent link between loss of hearing and diabetes, even while when all other variables are accounted for.

So it’s pretty well established that diabetes is linked to a higher risk of hearing loss. But why would diabetes put you at higher danger of suffering from loss of hearing? The reason isn’t really well comprehended. Diabetes is linked to a number of health concerns, and particularly, can result in physical injury to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One theory is that the the ears may be likewise affected by the disease, blood vessels in the ears being damaged. But it might also be associated with general health management. A 2015 study underscored the connection between hearing loss and diabetes in U.S veterans, but most notably, it revealed that individuals with uncontrolled diabetes, in other words, people suffered even worse if they had untreated and uncontrolled. If you are worried that you may be pre-diabetic or are suffering from undiagnosed diabetes, it’s important to consult with a doctor and have your blood sugar tested. It’s a good idea to have your hearing examined if you’re having a hard time hearing too.

2: Falling

You could have a bad fall. It’s not really a health issue, because it isn’t vertigo but it can trigger lots of other difficulties. A study performed in 2012 showed a strong connection between the risk of falling and loss of hearing though you might not have suspected that there was a connection between the two. Looking at a sample of over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 and 69, scientists found that for every 10 dB rise in hearing loss (for reference, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the risk of falling increased 1.4X. Even for people with minimal hearing loss the relationship held up: Those who had 25 dB hearing loss were 3 times as likely as those with normal hearing to have had a fall within the previous 12 months.

Why would you fall because you are having trouble hearing? While our ears have an important role to play in helping us balance, there are other reasons why loss of hearing could get you down (in this case, very literally). Even though this study didn’t go into what had caused the subject’s falls, the authors believed that having difficulty hearing what’s going on around you you (and missing an important sound such as a car honking) could be one problem. But it could also go the other way if problems hearing means you’re paying more attention to sounds than to your surroundings, it might be easy to trip and fall. The good news here is that dealing with loss of hearing may possibly decrease your risk of having a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

Several studies (such as this one from 2018) have revealed that hearing loss is associated with high blood pressure and some (including this 2013 research) have shown that high blood pressure may actually speed up age-related hearing loss. Even after controlling for variables including noise exposure or if you smoke, the link has been fairly persistently discovered. Gender is the only variable that seems to make a difference: If you’re a male, the connection between hearing loss and high blood pressure is even stronger.

Your ears aren’t part of your circulatory system, but they’re pretty close to it: Two main arteries are very near to the ears not to mention the little blood vessels inside them. This is one reason why individuals who have high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is ultimately their own blood pumping. (That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; you’re hearing your own pulse.) But high blood pressure could also potentially be the cause of physical injury to your ears which is the primary theory behind why it would accelerate hearing loss. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force every time it beats. That could potentially damage the smaller blood arteries inside your ears. High blood pressure is controllable, through both medical interventions and lifestyle change. But if you believe you’re suffering with loss of hearing even if you think you’re too young for the age-related problems, it’s a good idea to consult a hearing care professional.

4: Dementia

Chances of dementia may be higher with hearing loss. A six year study, begun in 2013 that followed 2,000 people in their 70’s discovered 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 ten years discovered that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more likely it was that he or she would develop dementia. (They also uncovered a similar connection to Alzheimer’s Disease, though a less statistically substantial one.) moderate loss of hearing, based on these findings, puts you at 3 times the danger of somebody who doesn’t have hearing loss; severe loss of hearing nearly quintuples one’s risk.

But, though experts have been able to document the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss, they still don’t know why this happens. A common hypothesis is that having problems hearing can cause people to avoid social situations, and that social withdrawal and lack of mental stimulation can be incapacitating. Another theory is that loss of hearing overloads your brain. Essentially, trying to perceive sounds around you exhausts your brain so you might not have very much juice left for recalling things such as where you put your medication. 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 difficult when you are contending to hear what people are saying. So if you are coping with hearing loss, you should put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing test.

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