Doctor speaks with patient about medical conditions related to hearing loss and tinnitus.

Aging is one of the most common hearing loss indicators and truth be told, as hard as we might try, aging can’t be escaped. But were you aware hearing loss can lead to health issues that can be managed, and in certain scenarios, preventable? Here’s a look at several examples that will surprise you.

1: Diabetes

A widely-reported 2008 study that examined over 5,000 American adults discovered that individuals who were diagnosed with diabetes were twice as likely to have some degree of hearing loss when tested with low or mid-frequency sounds. Impairment was also more probable with high-frequency sounds, but not as serious. It was also discovered by investigators that people who had high blood sugar levels but not high enough to be defined as diabetes, put simply, pre-diabetic, were 30 % more likely to have hearing loss than those with normal blood sugar. A more recent 2013 meta-study (that’s right, a study of studies) found that there was a consistent link between hearing loss and diabetes, even while taking into consideration other variables.

So it’s pretty well established that diabetes is linked to a greater chance of loss of hearing. But why would you be at higher danger of getting diabetes simply because you have hearing loss? The answer isn’t really well known. Diabetes is associated with a number of health problems, and notably, the kidneys, extremities, and eyes can be physically damaged. One theory is that the the ears might be similarly affected by the disease, blood vessels in the ears being harmed. But it might also be related to overall health management. A 2015 study that looked at U.S. military veterans highlighted the connection between hearing loss and diabetes, but most notably, it discovered that individuals with uncontrolled diabetes, in essence, that those with uncontrolled and untreated diabetes, it discovered, suffered more. If you are worried that you may be pre-diabetic or are suffering from undiagnosed diabetes, it’s necessary to consult with a doctor and get your blood sugar checked. Similarly, if you’re having difficulty hearing, it’s a smart idea to get it examined.

2: Falling

OK, this is not exactly a health problem, since we aren’t dealing with vertigo, but going through a bad fall can initiate a cascade of health issues. A study carried out in 2012 showed a strong connection between the danger of falling and loss of hearing though you might not have thought that there was a relationship between the two. While investigating over 2,000 adults between the ages of 40 to 69, investigators discovered that for every 10 dB increase in hearing loss (as an example, normal breathing is about 10 dB), the danger of falling increased 1.4X. Even for people with mild loss of hearing the connection held up: Within the previous 12 months individuals with 25 dB of hearing loss were more likely to have fallen than people with normal hearing.

Why would having difficulty hearing cause you to fall? Even though our ears have a significant role to play in helping us balance, there are other reasons why loss of hearing could get you down (in this case, quite literally). Although the exact reason for the individual’s falls wasn’t investigated in this study,, it was suspected by the authors that having trouble hearing what’s going on around you you (and missing an important sound like a car honking) may be one issue. But if you’re struggling to pay attention to sounds around you, your divided attention means you might be paying less attention to your physical environment and that may end up in a fall. The good news here is that managing hearing loss may possibly reduce your risk of suffering a fall.

3: High Blood Pressure

Numerous studies (including this one from 2018) have revealed that loss of hearing is connected to high blood pressure and some (like this 2013 study) have shown that high blood pressure could actually speed up age-related hearing loss. It’s a link that’s been found pretty persistently, even when controlling for variables including noise exposure and whether you’re a smoker. Gender is the only variable that seems to make a difference: The connection betweenloss of hearing and high blood pressure, if your a man, is even stronger.

Your ears aren’t part of your circulatory system, but they’re pretty close to it: In addition to the numerous tiny blood vessels in your ear, two of the body’s main arteries go right by it. This is one explanation why people who have high blood pressure often suffer from tinnitus, the pulsing they’re hearing is actually their own blood pumping. (That’s why this kind of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus; it’s your own pulse your hearing.) But high blood pressure might also possibly cause physical damage to your ears which is the main theory behind why it would accelerate loss of hearing. If your heart is pumping harder, there’s more force every time it beats. The smaller blood vessels in your ears could possibly be damaged by this. lifestyle changes and medical intervention, high blood pressure can be controlled. But if you believe you’re experiencing loss of hearing even if you believe you’re too young for the age-related problems, it’s a good move to consult a hearing care professional.

4: Dementia

Risk of dementia could be higher with loss of hearing. A six year study, started in 2013 that followed 2,000 people in their 70’s discovered that the danger of cognitive impairment increased by 24% with just mild hearing loss (about 25 dB, or slightly louder than a whisper). 2011 research by the same research group which tracked people over more than ten years revealed that the worse a subject’s hearing was, the more likely it was that they would develop dementia. (They also uncovered a similar connection to Alzheimer’s Disease, even though it was less substantial.) moderate hearing loss, based on these findings, puts you at 3 times the risk of a person with no loss of hearing; severe loss of hearing nearly quintuples one’s danger.

But, though scientists have been successful at documenting the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, they still aren’t positive as to why this occurs. A common theory is that having trouble hearing can cause people to avoid social situations, and that social isolation and lack of mental stimulation can be debilitating. A different theory is that hearing loss overloads your brain. In other words, trying to perceive sounds around you fatigues your brain so you may not have very much energy left for recalling things such as where you put your medication. Staying in close communication with friends and family and doing crosswords or brain games could help here, but so can treating hearing loss. If you’re capable of hearing clearly, social situations are easier to manage, and you’ll be capable of focusing on the necessary things instead of trying to understand what someone just said. So if you are dealing with hearing loss, you should put a plan of action in place including getting a hearing exam.