Your hearing health is linked to numerous other health conditions, from depression to dementia. Your hearing is linked to your health in the following ways.
1. Diabetes Impacts Your Hearing
A widely-cited study that evaluated more than 5,000 adults determined that individuals who had been diagnosed with diabetes were twice as likely to experience mild or worse hearing loss when tested with low- or mid-frequency sounds. Hearing loss was also more likely with high-frequency sounds, but not as severe. This same research revealed that people who had slightly elevated blood sugar levels (pre-diabetic) were 30% more likely to have hearing loss. A more recent meta-study revealed that the link between diabetes and hearing loss was consistent, even when controlling for other variables.
So it’s fairly well established that diabetes is linked to an increased risk of hearing impairment. But why would diabetes put you at a higher risk of experiencing hearing impairment? When it comes to this, science doesn’t really have an explanation. A whole range of health issues have been linked to diabetes, including damage to the extremities, kidneys, and eyes. One theory is that the condition could affect the ears in an equivalent way, damaging blood vessels in the inner ear. But management of overall health could also be a relevant possibility. Research that observed military veterans highlighted the connection between hearing impairment and diabetes, but in particular, it found that those with unchecked diabetes, in other words, people who are not controlling their blood sugar or otherwise treating the disease, suffered worse outcomes. If you are concerned that you might be pre-diabetic or have undiagnosed diabetes, it’s important to speak to a doctor and have your blood sugar checked.
2. High Blood Pressure Can Damage Your Ears
Multiple studies have revealed 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 such as noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. Gender appears to be the only variable that makes a difference: If you’re a man, the link between high blood pressure and hearing loss is even greater.
The ears and the circulatory system have a close relationship: Besides the many tiny blood vessels inside your ear, two of the body’s primary arteries run right by it. Individuals with high blood pressure, in many cases, can hear their own blood pumping and this is the source of their tinnitus. Because you can hear your own pulse with this kind of tinnitus, it’s called pulsatile tinnitus. But high blood pressure could also potentially cause physical harm to your ears, that’s the main theory behind why it would speed up hearing loss. There’s more power behind every heartbeat if the heart is pumping harder. The smaller blood vessels inside of your ears can be damaged by this. High blood pressure is treatable using both lifestyle changes and medical interventions. But you should make an appointment for a hearing examination if you suspect you are developing any amount of hearing loss.
3. Dementia And Hearing Impairment
Hearing loss may put you at a greater chance of dementia. Research from Johns Hopkins University that followed nearly 2,000 patients over the course of six years found that the risk of cognitive deterioration increased by 24% with just mild hearing impairment (about 25 dB). And the worse the level of hearing impairment, the higher the risk of dementia, according to another study conducted over a decade by the same researchers. They also discovered a similar connection to Alzheimer’s Disease. Based on these findings, moderate hearing impairment puts you at 3X the risk of somebody without hearing loss. The danger rises to 4 times with severe hearing loss.
The truth is, if you’re experiencing hearing loss, you need to get it evaluated and treated. Your health depends on it.