As humans, we’re always making connections between things that happen in our life. But sometimes, I’ve personally realized I don’t always see a connection between seemingly different things. So it’s great when science can step in, do the studies, and figure out those links. You might be surprised how many “unrelated” health challenges are connected the hearing loss.
These 7 are the most closely associated.
1. Falls and Fractures
Falls are a major cause of accidents as we age. And the pain, medical bills, and loss of ability to do for ourselves after a big fall can be physically, financially, and emotionally devastating.
Fact: CDC researchers found a link between an increased number of falls and hearing loss. They found a 140% increase in the chance of a reported fall for every 10 dB (decibels) a person loses in their range of hearing.
Links or connections don’t always mean one thing is causing something else. However, this is a very strong link, so in my professional opinion, they are on to something.
2. Social Isolation
Many people live in social isolation at any age. But it becomes especially prevalent as we age, as does hearing loss. Losing one’s hearing even a little makes it more mentally taxing to interact with people. This can lead to withdrawal from conversations and people as a whole.
Birds singing on a spring morning, music, children’s laughter, a loved one’s voice — these sounds bring us moments of joy. Losing these moments, or others, may contribute to or worsen depression.
Fact: A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that rates of depression are roughly double among those with untreated moderate hearing loss.
Coupled with social isolation, this is a troubling mix.
The same JAMA study showed a similar connection with anxiety. Untreated hearing loss can lead to agitation when you are unable to hear or understand. You may feel worried you’re missing important information. You may feel unable to engage in hobbies you once loved. This can increase anxiety and depression.
On the other hand, researchers have not ruled out that depression and/or anxiety may also in some way be causing the hearing loss. The next one may explain how.
5. Cardiovascular Disease
Our emotional mental health is closely linked to heart health. When we feel anxious and depressed, our hearts often race, putting stress on the arteries. Blood pressure may rise. So it’s no wonder that those with untreated hearing loss are at increased risk of heart events like stroke and heart attack.
This goes both ways. Having heart disease can increase your risk of developing hearing loss because high blood pressure or blocked arteries cuts off blood to your ears. Specialized hearing cells die without the oxygen that blood transports.
Uncontrolled blood sugar damages blood vessels. They can no longer transport oxygen to the ears as well, so this can also lead to hearing loss.
7. Cognitive Impairment / Dementia
As a hearing person loses their hearing, parts of the brain that are no longer being used go into decline. This may be subtle at first but often progresses. The good news is, as with most of these, getting hearing loss treated can reduce the risk of developing comorbidities with hearing loss.
If you have any of these conditions or believe you might have hearing loss, it’s time to get tested. I invite you to call my office to schedule a time get a hearing test. It’s always better to know.