Tinnitus and Hearing Health Calgary, Calgary AL

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

Aging is one of the most typical hearing loss clues and truth be told, as hard as we might try, aging can’t be stopped. But were you aware hearing loss has also been connected to health concerns that are treatable, and in certain situations, can be avoided? You might be surprised by these examples.

1: Diabetes

Over 5,000 American adults were looked at in a 2008 study which found that individuals who were diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to suffer from some degree of hearing loss when screened with mid or low-frequency sounds. High frequency impairment was also likely but less severe. The investigators also found that subjects who were pre-diabetic, in a nutshell, individuals with blood sugar levels that are higher, but not high enough to be defined as diabetes, were 30 % more likely to suffer from hearing loss than those with healthy blood sugar. A more recent 2013 meta-study (yup, a study of studies) revealed that there was a absolutely consistent link between loss of hearing and diabetes, even while when all other variables are considered.

So the connection between loss of hearing and diabetes is quite well demonstrated. But why should you be at increased danger of getting diabetes just because you suffer from hearing loss? The reason isn’t really well known. Diabetes is associated with a wide variety of health issues, and particularly, can result in physical damage to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One hypothesis is that the condition could affect the ears in a similar manner, harming blood vessels in the inner ear. But it might also be associated with overall health management. A 2015 study underscored the link between loss of hearing and diabetes in U.S veterans, but most notably, it found that people with uncontrolled diabetes, in other words, that those with untreated and uncontrolled diabetes, it discovered, suffered more. It’s essential to have your blood sugar checked and speak with a doctor if you suspect you may have undiagnosed diabetes or might be pre-diabetic. Also, if you’re having difficulty hearing, it’s a good idea to get it examined.

2: Falling

You could have a bad fall. It’s not really a health issue, because it isn’t vertigo but it can result in many other complications. A study carried out in 2012 uncovered a strong link between the chance of falling and hearing loss though you may not have thought that there was a relationship between the two. Looking at a trial of over 2,000 adults ages 40 to 69, scientists found that for every 10 dB rise in loss of hearing (for reference, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the danger of falling increased 1.4X. This link held up even for individuals with mild hearing loss: Those with 25 dB hearing loss were 3 times as likely as those with normal hearing to have fallen within the last twelve months.

Why would having difficulty hearing make you fall? There are several reasons why hearing problems can lead to a fall aside from the role your ears play in balance. Though this study didn’t delve into what was the cause of the subject’s falls, the authors speculated that having trouble hearing what’s around you (and missing an important sound like a car honking) might be one problem. But it could also go the other way if problems hearing means you’re concentrating on sounds rather than paying attention to your surroundings, it may be easy to trip and fall. The good news here is that treating loss of hearing may possibly decrease your risk of suffering a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

A number of studies (including this one from 2018) have demonstrated that hearing loss is connected to high blood pressure and some (including this 2013 study) have shown that high blood pressure could actually speed up age-related hearing loss. It’s a link that’s been found pretty persistently, even while controlling for variables such as whether or not you smoke or noise exposure. Gender is the only variable that appears to make a difference: If you’re a male, the link between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even stronger.

Your ears are quite closely connected to your circulatory system: Two main arteries are very close to the ears not to mention the tiny blood vessels inside them. This is one reason why people with high blood pressure often experience tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is actually their own blood pumping. (That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; it’s your pulse your hearing.) The main theory behind why high blood pressure could quicken hearing loss is that high blood pressure can also cause permanent injury to your ears. Each beat has more pressure if your heart is pumping harder. The smaller blood vessels in your ears might potentially be injured by this. High blood pressure is controllable, through both lifestyle changes and medical interventions. But if you suspect you’re suffering from hearing loss even if you believe you’re not old enough for the age-related stuff, it’s a good idea to speak with a hearing specialist.

4: Dementia

Loss of hearing could put you at higher danger of dementia. A 2013 study from Johns Hopkins University that followed almost 2,000 people in their 70’s over the course of six years revealed that the risk of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with just minor loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). A 2011 study by the same researchers which analyzed subjects over more than 10 years found that when the subject’s hearing got worse, the more likely it was that they would get dementia. (They also found a similar link to Alzheimer’s Disease, albeit a less statistically substantial one.) moderate loss of hearing, based on these findings, puts you at 3X the danger of a person who doesn’t have loss of hearing; one’s risk is raised by nearly 4 times with severe hearing loss.

It’s frightening information, but it’s significant to recognize that while the connection between loss of hearing and mental decline has been well recognized, scientists have been less successful at figuring out why the two are so solidly connected. If you can’t hear well, it’s hard to socialize with people so the theory is you will avoid social situations, and that social isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be incapacitating. A different theory is that hearing loss short circuits your brain. In other words, trying to hear sounds around you exhausts your brain so you may not have much energy left for remembering things such as where you put your medication. Maintaining social ties and doing crosswords or brain games could help here, but so can dealing with hearing loss. Social scenarios become much more difficult when you are struggling to hear what people are saying. So if you are dealing with hearing loss, you should put a plan of action in place including having a hearing exam.

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