Doctor speaks with patient about medical conditions related to hearing loss and tinnitus.

Aging is one of the most common signals of hearing loss and truth be told, as hard as we may try, we can’t escape aging. But were you aware hearing loss can lead to between
loss problems
that can be managed, and in some cases, preventable? Here’s a look at some cases that will surprise you.

1: Diabetes

Over 5,000 American adults were evaluated in a 2008 study which found that diabetes diagnosed people were twice as likely to have some amount of hearing loss when mid or low frequency tones were used to screen them. High frequency impairment was also likely but not as severe. It was also found by analysts that people who had high blood sugar levels but not so high as to be defined as diabetes, in other words, pre-diabetic, were 30 % more likely than those who had normal blood sugar levels, to have loss of hearing. A more recent 2013 meta-study (you got it, a study of studies) determined that the connection between diabetes and hearing loss was consistent, even while controlling for other variables.

So the connection between loss of hearing and diabetes is quite well founded. But why should you be at higher danger of getting diabetes simply because you suffer from loss of hearing? Science is at a bit of a loss here. Diabetes is linked to a wide variety of health concerns, and in particular, can result in physical harm to the eyes, kidneys, and extremities. One hypothesis is that the the ears could be similarly affected by the disease, harming blood vessels in the inner ear. But general health management may be to blame. A 2015 study underscored the link between loss of hearing and diabetes in U.S veterans, but particularly, it revealed that those with unchecked diabetes, in essence, that those with untreated and uncontrolled diabetes, it found, suffered more. It’s necessary to have your blood sugar tested and speak to a doctor if you believe you could have undiagnosed diabetes or may be pre-diabetic. It’s a good idea to get your hearing checked if you’re having a hard time hearing also.

2: Falling

You could have a bad fall. It’s not really a health issue, because it’s not vertigo but it can trigger numerous other complications. Research performed in 2012 showed a strong connection between the risk of falling and hearing loss though you might not have thought that there was a connection between the two. While analyzing over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, investigators discovered that for every 10 dB increase in loss of hearing (for reference, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the chance of falling increased 1.4X. This link held up even for people with mild loss of hearing: Within the previous twelve months individuals with 25 dB of hearing loss were more likely to have had a fall than people with normal hearing.

Why should having problems hearing cause you to fall? While our ears play a significant role in helping us balance, there are other reasons why hearing loss could get you down (in this case, quite literally). Although the reason for the individual’s falls wasn’t examined in this study,, the authors speculated that having problems hearing what’s going on around you you (and missing a car honking or other significant sounds) may be one problem. But it could also go the other way if problems hearing means you’re paying more attention to sounds than to what’s around you, it could be easy to trip and fall. The good news here is that treating loss of hearing might potentially lessen your risk of suffering a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

A number of studies (including this one from 2018) have shown that hearing loss is connected to high blood pressure and some (like this 2013 study) have observed that high blood pressure might actually quicken age-related hearing loss. Even after controlling for variables such as if you’re a smoker or noise exposure, the link has been relatively persistently revealed. The only variable that matters appears to be gender: If you’re a man, the connection between loss of hearing and high blood pressure is even stronger.

Your ears are very closely related to your circulatory system: Two main arteries are very near to the ears as well as the tiny blood vessels inside them. This is one reason why individuals who have high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is ultimately their own blood pumping. (That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; it’s your own pulse your hearing.) The primary theory for why high blood pressure could speed up loss of hearing is that high blood pressure can also do permanent damage to your ears. Each beat has more pressure if your heart is pumping harder. That could potentially damage the smaller blood arteries in your ears. High blood pressure is controllable, through both lifestyle changes and medical interventions. But if you think you’re suffering with hearing loss even if you believe you’re too young for the age-related problems, it’s a good decision to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert.

4: Dementia

Risk of dementia may be higher with hearing loss. A six year study, begun in 2013 that followed 2,000 individuals in their 70’s revealed that the danger of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with just minor loss of hearing (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). A 2011 study by the same research group which analyzed people over more than a decade revealed that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more likely it was that they would develop dementia. (Alzheimer’s was also discovered to have a similar link, even though it was less significant.) moderate loss of hearing, based on these findings, puts you at three times the risk of someone with no hearing loss; severe loss of hearing nearly quintuples one’s risk.

But, though scientists have been successful at documenting the connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss, they still don’t know why this takes place. A common hypothesis is that having difficulty hearing can cause people to avoid social interactions, and that social isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be incapacitating. A different theory is that hearing loss short circuits your brain. In essence, trying to hear sounds around you fatigues your brain so you might not have much juice left for recalling things like where you put your medication. Maintaining social ties and keeping the brain active and challenged could help here, but so can treating loss of hearing. Social scenarios become much more overwhelming when you are contending to hear what people are saying. So if you are coping with loss of hearing, you should put a plan of action in place including having a hearing exam.