Your hearing health is connected to many other health concerns, from depression to dementia. Your hearing is linked to your health in the following ways.
1. Diabetes Affects Your Hearing
A widely-cited study that observed over 5,000 adults determined that individuals who had been diagnosed with diabetes were twice as likely to suffer mild or worse hearing impairment when tested with low- or mid-frequency sounds. Impairment was also more likely with high-frequency sounds, but less severe. The researchers also discovered that subjects who were pre-diabetic, in other words, those who have 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 normal blood sugar levels. A more recent meta-study discovered that the link between diabetes and hearing loss was consistent, even when controlling for other variables.
So an increased risk of hearing loss is solidly linked to diabetes. But why would diabetes put you at an increased risk of suffering from hearing loss? Science is at a bit of a loss here. Diabetes is linked to a wide variety of health issues, and in particular, can result in physical damage to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One hypothesis is that the condition may impact the ears in an equivalent way, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But management of your general health may also be a relevant possibility. Research that observed military veterans highlighted the connection between hearing impairment and diabetes, but in particular, it revealed that those with uncontrolled diabetes, essentially, people who are not monitoring their blood sugar or otherwise treating the disease, suffered worse consequences. If you are concerned that you may be pre-diabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s important to speak to a doctor and get your blood sugar tested.
2. High Blood Pressure Can Harm Your Ears
Numerous studies have shown that hearing loss is connected to high blood pressure, and some have found that high blood pressure may actually accelerate age-related hearing loss. Even when adjusting for variables like whether you smoke or your level of noise exposure, the results are consistent. The only variable that appears to matter is gender: Men who have high blood pressure are at a greater danger of hearing loss.
The circulatory system and the ears have a close relationship: Two of your body’s main arteries run right by your ears in addition to the presence of tiny blood vessels inside your ears. This is one reason why people who have high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is really their own blood pumping. Because you can hear your own pulse with this type of tinnitus, it’s known as pulsatile tinnitus. But high blood pressure could also potentially lead to physical damage to your ears, that’s the main hypothesis behind why it would accelerate hearing loss. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more power with every beat. That could potentially damage the smaller blood arteries in your ears. Both medical treatment and lifestyle changes can be used to help regulate high blood pressure. But if you think you’re experiencing hearing impairment, even if you think you’re not old enough for age-related hearing loss, you need to make an appointment to see us.
3. Dementia And Hearing Loss
Hearing loss might put you at a higher risk of dementia. Research from Johns Hopkins University that observed almost 2,000 patients over six years discovered that the chance of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with just mild hearing impairment (about 25 dB). And the worse the degree of hearing impairment, the higher the danger of dementia, according to another study conducted over 10 years by the same researchers. They also uncovered a similar connection to Alzheimer’s Disease. Moderate hearing loss puts you at 3 times higher risk, based on these findings, than someone with functional hearing. The danger rises to 4 times with severe hearing loss.
The bottom line is, if you’re experiencing hearing loss, you should get it tested and treated. It’s about your state of health.