Listen To Your Body: Hearing Loss & Overall Health

Listen To Your Body: Hearing Loss & Overall Health

The loss of one’s hearing can have a significant impact on our lives. The ability to hear is one of our treasured senses, and it is a vital factor for successful human interaction.

While hearing loss is a medical condition in itself, if left untreated or if it isn’t managed accordingly, it can also impact our overall wellbeing and way of life. After all, without our hearing we are losing something that makes us uniquely human, so every effort should be made to ensure we keep our wellbeing front of mind.

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man looking at the window

Symptoms of hearing loss include:

  • Speech and other sounds are muffled,
  • Words become more difficult to understand, especially when there is significant background noise,
  • Difficulty in hearing consonants,
  • Requiring people to speak slowly, clearly and loudly,
  • Having to turn the volume on your electronic devices higher than normal,
  • Lacking the confidence to have conversations and attending some social functions.

If you begin to notice the signs of hearing loss noted above, or you notice the signs in a family member, ensure you speak with your primary physician sooner rather than later. Untreated hearing loss may result in the following conditions, as well as be a risk factor for diseases such as dementia, diabetes, heart disease and depression.

What are the effects of untreated hearing loss?

Studies have found a causal link between hearing loss and the following:

  • Irritability, negativity and an overall increase in anger,
  • An increase in fatigue, tension, stress and a higher likelihood of depression,
  • Avoidance/withdrawal from social situations,
  • Social rejection and loneliness,
  • Restrictions on earning potential and working performance
  • Decreased alertness and increased personal safety risks
  • Restricted memory recall, which can affect your ability to learn

Hearing loss can impact us at any stage of our lives:

  • If hearing loss is left untreated at a young age, it can result in difficulties for that child to learn, develop speech and acquire the necessary interpersonal skills required to foster self-esteem and succeed in school and life.
  • As we age, hearing loss provides a different set of difficulties. As noted above, those who have difficulty hearing can experience a severely distorted and incomplete form of communication. This can result in isolation, withdrawal and in some cases, depression.

Let’s dive a little bit deeper and explore how hearing loss can be a significant risk factor to other serious illnesses:

Hearing Loss and Dementia

Whilst there are other factors that can contribute to the development of dementia such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol use etc., age-related hearing loss can also be a risk factor.

It is important to note that hearing loss is only a risk factor, and that having any form of hearing loss does not mean a person will develop dementia.

Research from the John Hopkins School of Medicine suggests that:

  • People with mild symptoms of hearing loss may be at double the risk of developing dementia than people who can hear normally.
  • Those affected by a more severe loss of hearing are five times more likely to suffer from dementia in later life.
  • Hearing difficulties can result in the effects noted above, such as social isolation, feelings of loneliness and depression and a loss of independence. Any of these factors can contribute to the development of dementia.
  • When one loses their sense of hearing, they may place an extra demand on brain resources, which could result in deterioration of memory and other essential cognitive functions.
  • It is suggested that the neurological process that leads to dementia is the same process that leads to age-related hearing loss.
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old man holding medicine tablet

Hearing Loss and Diabetes

Diabetes and hearing loss are two of American’s most widespread health concerns.

  • Roughly 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes.
  • Around 34.5 million people in the U.S., too, suffer from hearing loss to some degree.
  • A recent study determined that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don’t have the disease.
  • Of the 84 million adults in the U.S. who have prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent greater than observed in non-diabetics.
At this stage, it isn’t fully known how diabetes is related to hearing loss. It’s thought heightened levels of blood glucose may damage the blood vessels of the inner ear. A similar effect can be seen with diabetic kidney and eye damage.

Hearing Loss and Heart Disease

Research conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women, killing roughly 610,000 people annually in the U.S.

People suffering from heart problems may suffer from a number of problems that can impact on their cardiovascular system. Common issues may include disorders that can prevent blood flow, which can lead to strokes, chest pains and even heart attacks. Sufferers may also experience an irregular heartbeat or muscle problems.

Research shows that hearing health thrives on a healthy blood flow and general circulation. Therefore, poor blood flow or inner ear vessel damage could both impact our ability to hear.

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Cochlea hair cells translate sound into signals and pulses that your brain can understand, and they rely on good circulation. If circulation is poor, these cells may not receive enough oxygen, and can, therefore, be damaged. Due to the fact that these particular cells can’t regenerate, this can mean permanent loss of hearing is brought on.

Hull and Kerschen’s study in the American Journal of Audiology, based around the links between heart and hearing health, found that older people suffering from heart problems could be at risk of poor central and peripheral hearing.

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An increase in cardiovascular health can help preserve your hearing.

A study conducted at Miami University discovered that:

  • Regular cardiovascular exercise can help to promote healthy hearing.
  • The research was carried out on over 100 non-smokers between the age of 22 and 78.
  • The study took place after they had been riding bicycles.
  • It was found that better hearing had a direct link to high fitness levels.  It was noted that these findings were particularly stark in those over the age of 50.

What can I do to maintain or recover my hearing?

Whilst hearing loss can be either a contributing factor or a result of the diseases mentioned above, it is always in our best interest to maintain a healthy level of hearing where possible.

Hearing devices are a very important part of managing hearing loss. These devices include:

  • Hearing aids,
  • Cochlear implants and
  • Assistive listening devices that help with specific problems.

Your audiologist will be able to advise you on the most appropriate device you’ll require based on your specific hearing difficulties.

It can’t be stressed enough that if any of the symptoms of hearing loss are identified, you or a family member should visit your doctor as soon as possible. The earlier hearing loss is detected, the sooner any potential underlying health risks can be identified.

If you’ve been recommended a hearing aid from your doctor or think it might be the best next step to combat the effects of hearing loss, the team at Best Hearing Aid are ready to help. Give us a call on (800) 376-6001 to have a chat and discover which hearing aid is right for you.