As we get older, our hearing can begin to deteriorate. But did you know that hearing loss can lead to more than just reduced communication? While it’s easy to think that the worst of having hearing loss is a decreased ability to hear friends and family, research shows that it may also be linked to some other comorbidities. Below, we explore how hearing loss can affect your overall health, and what you can do about it.
Diabetes is a medical condition where your body does not properly regulate and breakdown sugars in the circulatory system. While it may not be immediately apparent, research shows that diabetes can also have a direct impact on hearing loss. Diabetics are twice as likely to experience some form of hearing impairment than those who do not have diabetes, with progression typically taking place over a period of time.
Hearing damage from diabetes results from the damage to blood vessels, causing poor circulation in the inner ear and other areas of the auditory system. Poor circulation can prevent necessary nutrients and materials from getting to parts of the inner ear that are necessary for normal functioning and proper hearing ability. Additionally, high blood sugar levels can reduce your cochlea’s sensitivity while over time depriving nerve cells in the ears of oxygen more quickly than non-diabetics.
People with diabetes should be aware of the additional signs and symptoms that are associated with hearing loss which can include muffled tones, reduced range in hearing abilities or distortion when listening or speaking aloud. When possible it is best to actively monitor your own health for changes in indicators related to both diabetic health and hearing ability – such as changes in vision, dizziness or balance problems – where any unexpected variations could represent part of an underlying problem related to both comorbidities together.
Dementia is a common comorbidity of hearing loss, and many studies have suggested a link between the two. Although causality is still poorly understood, some studies have shown that hearing loss accelerates cognitive decline, which in turn increases the risk of dementia. Most likely, it’s not just hearing loss but other lifestyle factors that increase one’s vulnerability to dementia.
Studies suggest that even mild to moderate hearing losses can affect cognitive health and may hasten age-related cognitive decline. The most affected areas are language, memory, performance on simple tasks (such as recalling words), attention problems, and speed at processing sounds.
Although it’s unclear why hearing loss causes or exacerbates certain types of cognitive decline or whether untreated hearing loss contributes to dementia itself—several studies suggest a direct link between the two conditions—it stands to reason that people with undiagnosed hearing problems should be counselled on the potential consequences of their condition and seek proper treatment in order to maintain healthy brain function for longer. Early treatment for age-related or temporary hearing loss can help stave off further decline in cognition and protect against further vulnerability—not just against acute deafness but potentially against other age-related impairments as well.
As this article shows, hearing loss has been linked to a variety of physical and psychological health issues, including cardiovascular disease. Studies have indicated that hearing-impaired adults may be at greater risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) than adults with normal hearing. The association between the two conditions was more pronounced for adults who reported moderate-to-severe hearing loss compared to those who only experienced milder impairments.
Patients with underlying CHD are known to have poorer outcomes from cardiac events and treatments, and it appears that this is also true in patients who present with coexisting hearing loss. A growing body of evidence suggests that treatment of hearing loss may reduce the likelihood of further cardiac complications in such individuals. The mechanisms behind this link are yet to be fully understood, but researchers suspect that the burden of poor communication caused by diminished auditory processing puts a greater stress on cardiovascular functions over time.
The presence of both CHD and impaired hearing may signify underlying systemic deconditioning or an age-related decline in physiological functioning That increases the strain on delicate cardiovascular systems, leading to an increased risk for further complications. Intervening early by providing patients with appropriate management strategies can lead to improved outcomes from both conditions and should be undertaken as soon as possible to help reduce morbidity rates.
Balance and Falling
Aging adults with hearing loss may experience an increased risk of falls due to reduced awareness of their environment. It is important to recognize that balance problems contribute greatly to these risks. Balance challenges are caused when the brain finds it more difficult to process information coming from both ears. According to researchers, the inner ear that helps us keep our balance relies on synchronized signals from both ears—when one ear detects sound slower than the other, the ability for our brain correctly recognize direction is compromised resulting in a higher risk for falls or other balance related injuries.
Unfortunately, research shows there are few people aware of this link between hearing loss and instability which could result in a decreased likelihood for seeking help related to their balance challenges or preventative measures against future fall-related injuries such as seeking a proper fitting hearing aid device or further testing with an audiologist.. Aging adults should be aware that having difficulty hearing can involve more than just being hard of hearing; it could potentially mean they are also at increased risk for falling and have an increased need for support both in terms of selecting appropriate assistive devices and training which could improve their quality of life.
Much emphasis is placed on better aging, encouraging proper diet, exercise, and social interactions to stave off physical and mental decline. All of these are crucial. However, hearing care is also crucial to maintaining overall health and brain function.
It is important to get hearing checked regularly in order to identify and address hearing loss early. This will help reduce the risks of the comorbidities mentioned above.