The human body is an absolute wonder. So many of our bodily systems are interrelated and disease in one can unexpectedly effect the other.
Hearing is no different, and multiple studies have linked hearing loss to a variety of other health conditions. Below we have put together a guide on how common chronic diseases are linked with hearing loss.
Heart disease and hearing loss
A study published in the June 2010 issue of the American Journal of Audiology found that impaired cardiovascular health had a negative effect on hearing.
By reviewing data on thousands of people over a 60-year period, experimenters found that the delicate structures inside the inner ear were impaired by restricted blood flow and lack of oxygen created by cardiovascular disease.
They also found that hearing loss can be prevented by improved cardiovascular health through implementing a healthy diet, exercise, and curbing poor habits like smoking.
Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and hearing loss
Several major studies have been published linking diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia to hearing loss in older individuals.
One such study from Johns Hopkins simplified the issue: aging adults with untreated hearing loss experience brain shrinkage at a higher rate than those without hearing issues.
This shrinkage occurs in areas of the brain associated with processing sound, speech, memory, and balance. These are the same areas very much associated with diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
To take it a step further, the risk for developing such diseases increases as hearing loss becomes worse. Here are some of the study’s findings:
- Those with mild hearing impairment are twice as likely to develop dementia when compared to people with normal hearing
- Moderate hearing loss sufferers are three times more likely to develop dementia when compared to people with normal he
- People with untreated severe hearing impairment are five times more likely to develop dementia when compared to people with normal hearin
- For study participants over 60 years of age, 36 percent of the risk for dementia was associated with hearing loss
If you or a loved one already has Alzheimer’s or dementia, hearing loss can worsen the symptoms of those diseases such as impaired memory, the inability to learn new tasks, reduced alertness, compromised personal safety, irritability, anger, fatigue, stress, depression, and diminished overall health.
Depression and hearing loss
According to an Italian study, working adults from age 35 to 55 who were affected by mild to moderate hearing loss in both ears experienced higher levels of disability and psychological distress than a normal control population. They also experienced lower levels of social functioning.
This is no surprise as hearing loss can lead to genuine isolation. This isolation can be frustrating to family and friends, but this is a problem that can be largely prevented through the use of hearing aids and other hearing technology.
Additionally, it is important to implement life strategies in order to cope with hearing loss. Read our blog on the topic for more information.
Diabetes and hearing loss
Diabetes, like cardiovascular disease, affects a variety of bodily functions and is strongly associated with hearing loss.
Diabetic complications related to peripheral arterial disease effect a variety of body functions including functions of the feet, skin, and eyes.
Arterial disease also affects the delicate structures in the inner ear. Untreated diabetes allows blood vessels to narrow (similarly to heart disease) which restricts blood flow and starves the cochlea of oxygen.
As a result, hearing loss occurs and can vary from mild to severe and is often progressive, changing noticeably over 5-10 years. For this reason, it is vital to manage your diabetes in order to retain your hearing.
People with diabetes should have a hearing evaluation every 2-3 years, more often if you already have hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Stress and Hearing Loss
When your body experiences stress, the flow of flood and oxygen to all parts of your body is decreased through vasoconstriction.
Again, the inner ear is very sensitive to these changes and hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) may result.
Managing stress with exercise, a healthy work-life balance, yoga, and meditation will improve your sense of well-being and may also benefit your hearing.
Some people consume alcohol and cigarettes to relieve stress, but these substances only make the problem worse by restricting blood flow. Avoid using damaging substances to relieve stress in order to keep your hearing sharp.