From depression to dementia, numerous other health conditions are connected to your hearing health. Here are just a few of the ways your hearing is related to your health.
1. your Hearing is Affected by Diabetes
A widely-cited study that observed more than 5,000 adults revealed that individuals who had been diagnosed with diabetes were two times as likely to suffer mild or worse hearing loss when tested with low- or mid-frequency sounds. With high-frequency sounds, hearing impairment was not as severe but was also more likely. The researchers also found that subjects who were pre-diabetic, in other words, those who have blood sugar levels that are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes were 30% more likely to have hearing loss than those with normal blood sugar levels. A more recent meta-study discovered that the link between diabetes and hearing loss was consistent, even when controlling for other variables.
So an increased danger of hearing loss is firmly linked to diabetes. But the significant question is why is there a link. Science is at a bit of a loss here. Diabetes is linked to a wide range of health issues, and in particular, can lead to physical damage to the kidneys, eyes, and extremities. One theory is that the disease might affect the ears in a similar way, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But it may also be associated with overall health management. Research that looked at military veterans highlighted the link between hearing loss and diabetes, but in particular, it revealed that those with unchecked diabetes, essentially, people who are not managing their blood sugar or otherwise treating the disease, suffered worse consequences. If you are worried that you may be pre-diabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s important to speak to a doctor and get your blood sugar checked.
2. Your Ears Can be Damaged by High Blood Pressure
Multiple studies have shown that hearing loss is connected to high blood pressure, and some have found that high blood pressure could actually accelerate age-related hearing loss. The results are consistent even when taking into consideration variables like noise exposure and whether you smoke. The only variable that seems to make a difference is gender: If you’re a man, the link between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even greater.
Your ears aren’t a component of your circulatory system, but they’re darn close to it: Besides the many tiny blood vessels inside your ear, two of the body’s primary arteries go right near it. This is one reason why those who have high blood pressure often experience tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is really their own blood pumping. Because you can hear your own pulse with this type of tinnitus, it’s known as pulsatile tinnitus. But high blood pressure could also potentially cause physical damage to your ears, that’s the main theory behind why it would accelerate hearing loss. There’s more force with every heartbeat if the heart is pumping harder. That could potentially damage the smaller blood arteries in your ears. High blood pressure is manageable using both lifestyle changes and medical interventions. But you should make an appointment for a hearing exam if you think you are experiencing any amount of hearing impairment.
3. Hearing Loss And Dementia
Hearing loss may put you at a greater risk of dementia. Nearly 2000 individuals were studied 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 rises by 24%. Another study by the same researchers, which followed subjects over more than a decade, revealed that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more likely that he or she would develop dementia. This research also demonstrated that Alzheimer’s had a similar link to hearing loss. Based on these findings, moderate hearing loss puts you at 3X the chance of someone without hearing loss. Severe hearing loss puts you at nearly 4x the risk.
It’s essential, then, to have your hearing tested. Your health depends on it.