The connection of hearing loss to other health conditions has been a hot topic lately. In the past few years, there has been an increase in society’s focus on wellness and hearing health. As baby boomers age, there is more availability of “big data” and epidemiological data analysis (1). This blog will summarize the main comorbidities of hearing loss, some of which may be surprising!
Some health conditions change blood flow to the ear. -Cardiovascular Disease: A vascular compromise will often affect both hearing and cardiovascular structures. The most common type of hearing loss resulting from vascular compromises is flat or low-frequency hearing loss (4). -Diabetes: Research has found that hearing loss is 2x more common among people with diabetes than those without diabetes. Specifically, high blood glucose levels may damage the vessels in the stria vascularis (part of the organ of hearing). This impacts biochemistry and messages being sent to the brain (2).
Social isolation and loneliness are factors. -Depression: Hearing loss and depression were studied in over 1000 people ages 70-79. Results indicated that the odds of a self-reported depressive disorder were 1.5 times greater for every 25 dB of hearing loss (6). -Loneliness: A study has found that one month of hearing aid use significantly decreased the perception of loneliness (3).
Cognition and falls are also linked to hearing loss. -Falls: The brain uses sound cues to maintain spatial orientation and localization. Johns Hopkins has found that people with mild hearing loss are 3x more likely to have a history of falling (3). Rumalla et. al found that using hearing aids for 30 days may reduce the risk of falls and maintain stability (5). -Cognitive impairment: Multiple studies have found that cognition is associated with hearing loss. One study followed 600 participants for 12 years. Researchers found the risk of dementia significantly increased with the severity of baseline hearing loss (1).
Do you or a loved one have any of these conditions? It may be time to get a hearing test!
References Abrams H. Hearing loss and associated comorbidities: What do we know? Hearing Review. 2017;24(12):32-35. Bainbridge KE, Hoffman HJ, Cowie CC. Diabetes and hearing impairment in the United States: Audiometric evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004. Ann Intern Med. July 2008;149(1):1-10. Dawes, P., Emsley, R., Cruickshanks, K.J., Moore, D.R., Fortnum, H., Edmondson-Jones, M.,...Munro, K.J. (2015). Hearing loss and cognition: the role of hearing aids, social isolation and depression. PLoS One, 10(3), e0119616. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119616 Friedland DR, Cederberg C, Tarima S. Audiometric pattern as a predictor of cardiovascular status: Development of a model for assessment of risk.Laryngoscope. March 2009;119(3):473–486. Lin, F.R., & Ferrucci, L. (2012). Hearing loss and falls among older adults in the United States. Arch Intern Med., 172(4), 369-371. Mener, D.J., Betz, J., Genther, D.J., Chen, D., & Lin, F.R. (2013). Hearing loss and depression in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc., 61(9), 1627-1629. Rumalla, K., Karim, A.M., & Hullar, T.E. (2015). The effect of hearing aids on postural stability. Laryngoscope, 125(3), 720-3. doi: 10.1002/lary.24974