When you think about your hearing, do you also think about diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, oral health issues, smoking, prescription drugs, social isolation, dementia, depression, injury-causing falls and accidents? You should, because all of these health-related issues are connected, in one way or another, to your hearing.
You should, because all of these health-related issues are connected, in one way or another, to your hearing. Some health conditions or health-related decisions increase your risk of hearing loss, while others may be caused, at least in part, by hearing loss, especially when left untreated.
This “Sound Advice” blog post is intended to help you understand how hearing health is intertwined with so many other aspects of health and why you increase your potential for optimal overall health by promptly getting help for a hearing problem.
Health Conditions that are risk factors for hearing loss
Numerous studies have found that several health conditions and decisions related to your health increase the risk of hearing loss. Most of the health conditions in this group share a common biological mechanism: Directly or indirectly, they damage tiny blood vessels of the inner ear, diminishing the ability to hear.
- Diabetes — Hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don't have the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. Also, of the 84 million adults in the U.S. who have prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30% higher than in those with normal blood glucose.
- High blood pressure (hypertension) — A U.S. study of 274 men and women ages 45 to 64 found a strong relationship between high blood pressure and age-related hearing loss.
- Cardiovascular disease — Six decades of study revealed that impaired cardiovascular health (heart disease) negatively affects hearing ability, especially in older adults.
- Stroke — Sudden sensorineural hearing loss may foreshadow a cerebrovascular event (stroke) as much as two years before it happens, according to research conducted in Taiwan.
- Obesity — Severe obesity was associated with an increased prevalence of hearing loss, according to a study conducted in South Korea. Also, a U.S. study found that obese adolescents may be at a higher risk for hearing loss than their normal-weight peers.
- Oral health issues — Certain oral conditions, including periodontal (gum) disease, may result in hearing loss, according to a study conducted in Taiwan.
Other risk factors for hearing loss include:
- Ototoxic drugs — More than 200 prescription and over-the-counter drugs are “ototoxic,” meaning they can damage your hearing, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
- Smoking — A Japanese study found that smokers were up to 70% more likely than nonsmokers to develop hearing loss. Researchers also found that the risk of hearing loss dropped significantly within five year of quitting.
If you have any of these risk factors, it’s a good idea to get your hearing tested annually. Conversely, if you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss, you may want to see your physician about a screening for diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.
Hearing loss is a risk factor for certain health conditions
Do you know or suspect that you have hearing loss? The good news is, most cases of hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids. Unfortunately, many people delay getting the help they need — and the longer they wait, the more likely they are to experience some or all of the following health conditions:
- Social isolation — A survey of 2,300 adults age 50 and older found that people with untreated hearing loss were less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
- Dementia — Hearing loss may be a risk factor in up to 36% of dementia cases, according to a prominent researcher. Another study determined that even subtle hearing loss in younger men and women can affect brain function, increasing the risk of dementia later in life.
- Depression — Researchers found that older adults with some form of hearing loss are 47% more likely than their normal-hearing peers to experience symptoms of depression. Another study uncovered a strong association between hearing loss and depression among adults of all ages.
- Injury-causing falls — A study of 2,107 individuals ages 40 to 69 found that a 25-decibel hearing loss (classified as mild) was associated with a three-fold higher risk of falling, compared to someone with normal hearing. Every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold.
- Accidents — The risk of accident and injury increases with hearing loss, according to researchers, ranging from 60% higher for people who reported “a little trouble” hearing to 90% higher for those who said they had “a lot of trouble” hearing.
Take action to enjoy better hearing and optimal health
Whether you want to find out if your hearing is being impaired by a health condition, or you want to avoid serious, costly health conditions by getting treated for hearing loss, Amplifon Hearing Health Care is here for you! The first step is to schedule an appointment to receive a professional hearing evaluation at a clinic near you.
Note: This is the third blog post in a 3-part “Sound Advice” series. Following are links to the previous posts: