Your hearing health is connected to many other health concerns, from depression to dementia. Here are just a few of the ways your hearing is connected to your health.
1. Diabetes Impacts Your Hearing
A widely-cited study that evaluated over 5,000 adults revealed that individuals who had been diagnosed with diabetes were twice as likely to endure mild or worse hearing impairment when tested with low- or mid-frequency sounds. Hearing loss was also more likely with high-frequency sounds, but less severe. The researchers also found that subjects who were pre-diabetic, in other words, those with blood sugar levels that are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes were 30 percent more likely to have hearing impairment than those with regular blood sugar levels. A more recent meta-study found that the link between diabetes and hearing loss was consistent, even when controlling for other variables.
So it’s pretty established that diabetes is connected to an increased risk of hearing loss. But the real question is why is there a connection. Science is at somewhat of a loss here. Diabetes is linked to a wide range of health concerns, and particularly, can lead to physical damage to the eyes, kidneys, and limbs. One hypothesis is that the condition could affect the ears in an equivalent way, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But it might also be associated with general health management. People who failed to treat or manage their diabetes had worse outcomes according to one study performed on military veterans. If you are worried that you might be pre-diabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s essential to talk to a doctor and get your blood sugar tested.
2. Your Ears Can be Harmed by High Blood Pressure
It is well known that high blood pressure has a connection to, if not accelerates, hearing loss. Even when taking into consideration variables like whether you smoke or your amount of noise exposure, the results are consistent. The only variable that appears to make a difference is gender: Males who have high blood pressure are at a greater risk of hearing loss.
The circulatory system and the ears have a direct relationship: Besides the many tiny blood vessels inside your ear, two of the body’s main arteries run right by it. People with high blood pressure, in many cases, can hear their own blood pumping and this is the source of their tinnitus. That’s why this type of tinnitus is known as pulsatile tinnitus; you hear your pulse. The foremost theory why high blood pressure would accelerate hearing loss is that high blood pressure can cause physical damage to your ears. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force behind each beat. The smaller blood vessels inside of your ears can be damaged by this. High blood pressure is treatable through both lifestyle changes and medical interventions. But you need to schedule an appointment for a hearing examination if you think you are experiencing any degree of hearing loss.
3. Dementia And Hearing Impairment
You may have a greater risk of dementia if you have hearing loss. Almost 2000 people were analyzed over a six year period by Johns Hopkins University, and the research revealed that even with minor hearing loss (about 25 dB), the risk of dementia increases by 24%. Another study by the same researchers, which followed subjects over more than 10 years, found that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more likely that he or she would develop dementia. These studies also revealed that Alzheimer’s had a similar link to hearing loss. Moderate hearing loss puts you at 3 times higher risk, based on these findings, than someone with normal hearing. Extreme hearing loss puts you at nearly 4x the risk.
The truth is, if you’re experiencing hearing loss, you should get it tested and treated. It’s about your state of health.