As with many physical conditions, hearing loss doesn’t exist in isolation and can be related to other issues. Some of the comorbidities of hearing loss may be surprising or unexpected.
What is comorbidity?
Comorbidity is a medical concept that addresses two chronic illnesses concurrently or the occurrence of one or more secondary conditions that come with a primary illness concurrently.
Second only to heart disease and arthritis is hearing loss, making it the third most common medical condition in the United States. Hearing loss is an invisible disease, but it could affect other aspects of your well-being if left untreated. At the same time, other medical conditions can result in hearing loss or lead to it. Below are some of the most common conditions which can lead to or are exacerbated by hearing loss.
The most common medical condition in the US is heart disease. A healthy cardiovascular system gives us an ample supply of blood flow to the body.
Our auditory system, filled with tiny hair cells in the inner ear, depends on a healthy supply of blood to make sure it works properly. As such, a lack of oxygen could eventually lead to hearing loss.
How does this work? Hearing could be affected if the inner ear’s hair cells do not receive sufficient blood flow. High blood pressure, another cardiovascular disorder due to constriction of blood arteries, has been associated with hearing loss in recent research.
Dementia has been linked to untreated hearing loss in many different studies. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted one such study. Over 12 to 18 years, 639 research subjects had their hearing ability and cognitive abilities monitored in this study. Researchers found that untreated hearing loss was strongly associated with the development of dementia.
Similarly, research from Japan in 2011 showed that people on cognitive skill assessments who treated hearing loss using hearing aids consistently scored higher. As such, the treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids has been shown to have the potential to reduce the risk of dementia.
It has been found that some types of drugs are ototoxic (poisonous to the ear). Chemotherapy used to combat cancer requires ototoxic medications, raising the risk of hearing loss for cancer patients. Other medications may pose a danger to hearing, such as aminoglycoside antibiotics, to treat meningitis and other bacterial infections.
Under these cases, contact your physician immediately if you experience changes to your hearing while receiving care or medication for unrelated conditions. Many of these medications are life-saving, but if you inform your doctor if your hearing changes, there might be other choices for you.
Stanford University researchers are currently developing antibiotics that remove the ototoxic components. If you experience changes in your hearing, we must stress that you do not avoid taking your medications; again, it is necessary to contact your physician.
Falls and Accidents
Our balance and auditory systems are linked and as such, it is no surprise that there are connections between hearing and balance. Our sense of hearing allows us to locate ourselves in our world, whether behind us or on the side, and recognize where sounds originate.
Studies also found that individuals with untreated hearing loss experience fall, injuries, and hospitalization at increased rates than individuals who use hearing aids to treat their hearing loss.
It has been observed that untreated hearing loss isolates individuals from their loved ones, as well as their favorite pastimes. Hearing loss makes individuals less likely to socialize and partake in the things that they enjoy.
Eventually, this withdrawal leads to a sense of social alienation and, in turn, a higher depression rate. Around the same time, untreated hearing loss has been linked to elevated levels of stress and anxiety due to speech comprehension problems, as individuals with hearing issues avoid social interactions. Hearing aids help reconnect people and reduce the risk of anxiety, stress, and depression by managing hearing loss.
Treat Your Hearing Loss
Age-related hearing loss is not an innocuous result of aging, contrary to what many believe. It is associated with various disorders, and therefore its treatment can have compounded beneficial impacts on many areas of your health!
If you believe that you are suffering from hearing loss, ignoring your condition may be detrimental to your general health. To set up a hearing test, contact us today.