3 Serious Medical Conditions Associated With Hearing Loss
April 02, 2018
Submitted by Central Illinois Hearing and Balance Center
Think you might have hearing loss? It turns out procrastinating about that hearing test appointment may put more than just your hearing at risk. Primary care doctors now know hearing loss may be a symptom of another, more serious medical condition. Over the past decade, studies have linked hearing loss to three concerning co-morbidities:
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Poor cardiovascular health causes inadequate blood flow throughout the body. One of the first signs of a problem is blood vessel trauma to your inner ear, resulting in damage to fragile hearing nerves. The outcome is hearing loss, particularly in the lower frequencies.
A recent study showed a "significant association" between low-frequency hearing loss and the dangerous effects of cardiovascular disease, including strokes, coronary artery disease, and heart attacks. Because of this, you should immediately report it to your primary care doctor if you have a hearing test that indicates hearing loss — especially in the low frequencies. He or she may recommend a complete cardiovascular work-up.
Despite the results of multiple studies linking hearing loss to the onset of dementia, many people are unaware that untreated hearing loss poses a threat to cognitive health. Studies have shown the more profound the hearing loss, the greater the possibility of cognitive decline. Why is hearing loss a likely factor in the development of dementia in some patients? Some theories posit the following causes:
- Same, as-yet-to-be discovered cause of dementia may also cause or contribute to hearing loss
- Straining to hear and understand exhausts your mind and inhibits its ability to function at peak performance
- People who cannot hear well, or have difficulty hearing in crowds, often avoid socializing. Isolation is an established contributor to mental decline.
Additional studies have associated hearing loss with more rapid brain shrinkage, particularly affecting areas of the brain responsible for processing speech, sound, memory, and sensory integration. Early diagnosis and medical intervention can help slow the progression of dementia in some patients. Treatment with hearing aids not only helps improve your hearing — it might stave off or even slow down the development of dementia.
People with diabetes are two times more likely to suffer hearing loss than those without the condition. Diabetes actually encompasses a group of diseases associated with high blood glucose levels caused by an inability to produce or use insulin properly. Nearly 26 million Americans have a form of diabetes.
Research measuring the ability to hear at the low, mid, and high-frequencies in both ears found a link between diabetes and hearing loss at all frequencies, with a somewhat stronger association in the high-frequency range, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. It appears the damage is more common in patients with Type 2 diabetes, which represents approximately 95 percent of cases in the U.S. Another significant study tested 5,000-plus individuals and found more than 30 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes also experienced hearing loss, according to the NIDCD.
So, don’t put off getting a hearing evaluation. It could save your life!
For more information about hearing aids or hearing loss, contact the audiologists at the Central Illinois Hearing & Balance Center at 309-661-0232 or online at CIHearing.com. Their office is located at 808 S. Eldorado Rd., Suite 2 in Bloomington. They work in close partnership with Dr. Finn R. Amble, who is an ear, nose, and throat physician, to diagnose and treat hearing loss.
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