When our hearing abilities decline, our relationship with the world changes, which impacts every part of our lives. Comorbidities are medical conditions related to each other or occur simultaneously. When we speak about hearing loss, we think of it as a solitary ailment and not as a possible symptom of other health issues we might have. This view must change, as research has begun to show that hearing loss is indeed linked to many chronic conditions. The following comorbidities of hearing loss have been established by the medical field and medical research has been published to shed light on the subject and to provoke more investigation.
For quite a while now, there has been a lot of research conducted between hearing loss and its link to dementia. Through our aging process, we suffer the effects of hearing loss and with it the ramifications of lessened communicative abilities with those around us. As it is natural for our bodies to adapt to our lessening hearing abilities the strain takes its toll on our cognitive abilities as well.
Because of the gradual progression hearing loss has on our adaptability and restructuring and interpretation of sound it negatively impacts our communication.
The shadow of shame or embarrassment coupled with the constant exertion of differentiating and reinterpreting sounds is exhausting. It manifests in a slow withdrawal from social activities, thereby creating a loop that feeds into continued cognitive decline and vulnerability to dementia.
One of the most prominent studies that catapulted the link between dementia and hearing loss was published in 2011 by Dr. Lin. In the study, over 600 dementia-free participants were involved for over a period of 12 years. Included in the study was the following:
“Cognitive testing consisted of a standardized neurocognitive battery incorporating tests of mental status, memory, executive function, processing speed, and verbal function.”
After tests and data analysis, results showed that risk of dementia increased almost twofold for those with mild hearing loss, three-fold for those with moderate hearing loss and almost five-fold for those with extreme hearing loss.”
The conclusion reached by Dr. Lin and his associates, was that there is a significant correlation between hearing loss and dementia with participants scoring much lower on exams for executive function (dealing with self-control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility), mental status, and memory.
Because hearing loss affects our ability to communicate, leaving the condition untreated could lead to changes in our most important relationships. People with untreated hearing loss are at higher risk for experiencing depression, stress, and anxiety – especially when it comes to communication. As a result, people with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw from socializing and tend to experience more isolation. Coincidentally, social isolation amongst older adults is a major risk factor for developing dementia.
“Hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease,” concluded the National Institute of Health (NIH) in their press release. The study funded by the NIH involved testing the participants for their ability to hear frequencies from low to high. Examination of results found that, across the board, the participants with diabetes had a higher percentages of hearing loss encompassing a spectrum of frequencies than those that were not afflicted with diabetes.
As stated in the report, “Mild or greater hearing impairment of low- or mid-frequency sounds in the worse ear was about 21 percent in 399 adults with diabetes compared to about 9 percent in 4,741 adults without diabetes. For high frequency sounds, mild or greater hearing impairment in the worse ear was 54 percent in those with diabetes compared to 32 percent in those who did not have the disease.”
Suffice to say, yet another link between hearing loss and chronic conditions that we must recognize, and in the words of Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), “Hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes. As diabetes becomes more common, the disease may become a more significant contributor to hearing loss.”
Atlanta Hearing Doctor
Don’t wait any longer to get an assessment of your hearing. We care about your overall health and happiness at Atlanta Hearing Doctor, and hope the information provided above will give you the impetus to call us if you have any questions or concerns. We believe in being proactive in your journey to a better hearing experience and look forward to the first appointment for you or a loved one today!