women getting her ear checked
women getting her ear checked

The Connections Between Comorbidities and Hearing Loss

What Are Comorbidities?

Comorbidities are the presence of two or more concurrent diseases or conditions in a person. This term was first coined in the 1970s. Comorbid conditions can indicate certain conditions in the body that are simultaneous but seemingly independent of each other.

In the many years that have passed since the concept of comorbidities was first coined, experts have discovered increasing evidence that hearing loss can be associated with many other health conditions.

What Comorbidities Can Hearing Loss Be Associated With?

Though research into this field of study is still ongoing, experts have found that conditions such as cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, falls in the elderly population, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, social isolation and clinical depression can be associated with hearing loss.

What Are the Implications of Comorbidities Associated With Hearing Loss?

Cognitive Decline, Alzheimer’s Disease and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is increasingly linked to decreased brain function, and depending on the severity of their hearing loss can be anywhere from two to five times as likely to develop dementia. This decline in cognitive function also appears to occur at a more rapid rate with those experiencing hearing loss — about three years sooner, on average, than those without hearing loss.

Risk of Falling/Balance Issues and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can cause balance problems with those who are suffering from it. Balance and other related vestibular issues, in turn, increase the risk of falling, which is one of the leading health concerns among elderly populations in the U.S.

Experts believe that people who experience even a mild hearing loss are three times as likely to report a fall versus the previous year. Balance issues can also cause issues in a person’s muscle tone, as fear of falling causes them to limit their movement. However, instead of this protecting the individual, it actually increases their risk of falling even more.

Heart Disease and Hearing Loss

Researchers have seen a connection between hearing loss and patients with a history of cardiovascular disease and other circulatory disorders. Recent studies concluded that a person diagnosed with heart disease is 54% more likely to have hearing loss. Why? Heart disease, cardiovascular disease and other circulatory disorders tend to restrict blood flow. This blood flow is vital to hearing sensitivity. When it is restricted, then the body’s hearing system cannot perform optimally.

Social Isolation, Loneliness, Depression, and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss often happens gradually in people. Those who once enjoyed an evening out at a restaurant with close friends and family suddenly find themselves struggling to keep up with the conversation.

Without proper intervention (i.e., hearing care), these situations can become exhausting. You see, the brain has to work harder to process sounds when a hearing loss is present. These situations can become so frustrating for the person experiencing them that they begin declining invitations and socially isolating themselves. This can turn into a combination of frustration, anxiety, depression and embarrassment that only compounds over time, increasing the level of hearing loss and turning into a vicious cycle.

What Should People Do About Comorbidities and Hearing Loss?

Much like the interconnectedness of comorbidities themselves, their successful detection and treatment require a comprehensive approach. Though certain recommendations should only be directed by your primary care physician, we can tell you that a healthy diet, regular exercise and refraining from bad habits like smoking can go a long way in support of your long-term health.

When it comes to your long-term hearing health, we recommend that you see a trusted hearing care professional, like those at your local Beltone, to monitor and treat your hearing so that you can always hear and feel your best.

In fact, if 50 or over, then we recommend that you start seeing a hearing care provider on an annual basis. This is the age where hearing loss can begin to gradually occur. The sooner we can detect hearing loss, the sooner we can begin providing recommendations and treatment that can prolong your hearing health for as long as possible.

Beltone Wants You to Hear Your Very Best!

Your local Beltone team of hearing care professionals is here to help you and your loved ones hear your very best. We’ll listen to your experiences, discuss your hearing goals, provide you with the appropriate tests, and tailor treatment recommendations to your unique needs. It’s what everyone who has a hearing need deserves, so that’s what we always deliver.

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