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

Aging is one of the most typical signals of hearing loss and let’s face it, as hard as we might try, we can’t avoid aging. But did you recognize that hearing loss can lead to between
loss concerns
that can be managed, and in certain circumstances, can be avoided? You could be surprised by these examples.

1: Diabetes

Over 5,000 American adults were evaluated in a 2008 study which discovered that diabetes diagnosed individuals were twice as likely to suffer from mild or greater hearing loss when low or mid frequency sounds were utilized to test them. Impairment was also more likely with high-frequency sounds, but not as serious. It was also discovered by investigators that individuals who had high blood sugar levels but not so high as to be diagnosed with diabetes, in other words, pre-diabetic, were more likely by 30 percent than individuals with healthy blood sugar levels, to have hearing loss. A more recent 2013 meta-study (that’s right, a study of studies) discovered that the relationship between hearing loss and diabetes was persistent, even while taking into account other variables.

So the association between loss of hearing and diabetes is pretty well founded. But why would diabetes put you at increased risk of getting loss of hearing? Science is at a bit of a loss here. Diabetes is linked to a broad range of health issues, and notably, the eyes, extremities and kidneys can be physically injured. One theory is that the condition might affect the ears in a similar manner, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But overall health management might be the culprit. A 2015 study highlighted the connection between diabetes and loss of hearing in U.S veterans, but in particular, it revealed that those with uncontrolled diabetes, in essence, people suffered even worse if they had uncontrolled and untreated diabetes. If you are worried that you might be pre-diabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s essential to speak to a doctor and get your blood sugar checked. Also, if you’re having trouble hearing, it’s a smart idea to get it checked out.

2: Falling

You could have a bad fall. It’s not exactly a health issue, because it’s not vertigo but it can trigger numerous other difficulties. A study conducted in 2012 discovered a definite link between the danger of falling and hearing loss though you may not have thought that there was a link between the two. Evaluating a trial of over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 and 69, scientists found that for every 10 dB rise in loss of hearing (as an example, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the chance of falling increased 1.4X. This relationship held up even for people with mild hearing loss: Those with 25 dB hearing loss were 3 times as likely as those with normal hearing to have had a fall within the past twelve months.

Why should you fall just because you are having difficulty hearing? While our ears play a significant role in helping us balance, there are other reasons why hearing loss could get you down (in this case, very literally). Even though the exact reason for the subject’s falls wasn’t examined in this study,, it was suspected by the authors that having difficulty hearing what’s going on around you you (and missing an important sound such as a car honking) may be one problem. But if you’re struggling to pay attention to sounds around you, your divided attention means you may be paying less attention to your physical environment and that may end up in a fall. The good news here is that managing hearing loss could possibly reduce your chance of having a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

Numerous studies (such as this one from 2018) have shown that hearing loss is associated with high blood pressure and some (including this 2013 research) have shown that high blood pressure could actually quicken age-related hearing loss. Even after controlling for variables like if you’re a smoker or noise exposure, the connection has been relatively persistently revealed. The only variable that makes a difference appears to be gender: The link betweenloss of hearing and high blood pressure, if your a man, is even stronger.

Your ears are not part of your circulatory system, but they’re darn close to it: along with the many tiny blood vessels inside your ear, two of the body’s main arteries run right near it. This is one explanation why people with high blood pressure often experience tinnitus, it’s actually their own blood pumping that they’re hearing. (That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; you’re hearing your pulse.) The primary theory for why high blood pressure can accelerate loss of hearing is that high blood pressure can also cause permanent injury to your ears. Each beat has more force if your heart is pumping harder. The smaller blood vessels in your ears may possibly be damaged by this. Through medical intervention and changes in lifestyle, high blood pressure can be controlled. But if you suspect you’re suffering from loss of hearing even if you believe you’re not old enough for the age-related problems, it’s a good decision to speak with a hearing specialist.

4: Dementia

Danger of dementia may be higher with hearing loss. 2013 research from Johns Hopkins University that followed almost 2,000 people in their 70’s over the course of six years discovered that the danger of mental impairment increased by 24% with only slight loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). 2011 research by the same research group which analyzed subjects over more than 10 years revealed that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more probably it was that they would develop dementia. (Alzheimer’s was also found to have a similar connection, albeit a less statistically significant one.) Based on these conclusions, moderate hearing loss puts you at 3X the danger of a person with no hearing loss; one’s chance is raised by nearly 4 times with extreme loss of hearing.

But, though scientists have been able to document the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, 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 debilitating. A different hypothesis is that hearing loss overloads your brain. Essentially, because your brain is putting so much energy into comprehending the sounds near you, you might not have very much energy left for remembering things such as where you put your keys. Staying in close communication with friends and family and keeping the brain active and challenged could help here, but so can dealing with hearing loss. If you’re able to hear clearly, social situations become much easier to handle, and you’ll be able to focus on the necessary stuff instead of attempting to figure out what someone just said. So if you are coping with loss of hearing, you should put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing exam.

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