The “Hearing Bone’s” Connected to the What?

 Studies Show that Hearing Loss is Connected to Other Health Conditions

Once upon a time, before people knew any better, they thought that hearing loss was simply a part of growing older—something not worth doing much about.

They were  wrong.

Turns out, hearing loss isn’t fussy about age. More than half of us with hearing loss are still in the workforce. And hearing loss is a much bigger deal than we ever imagined. We need to take it seriously.

As one of the most common chronic health conditions in the United States today, hearing loss affects baby boomers, Gen Xers and every other age group. And, when left  unaddressed, hearing loss affects just about every aspect of a person’s life.

The big surprise is that hearing loss has been linked to other health conditions.

Hearing loss can have unwelcome companions—like heart disease; diabetes; chronic kidney  disease; depression; cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease; increased risk of falling; increased hospitalizations.

In fact, as  studies on the link between hearing loss and other health conditions mount, we’ve begun to see how our ears—and specifically how our hearing—connect to our  whole body and health.

Here’s what we know:

The very best  thing to do for hearing loss is to find out if you have it as soon as possible. Then take it seriously. If deemed appropriate by a qualified hearing health care professional, treat it. Hearing aids can benefit the vast majority of  people with hearing loss.

Cardiovascular  and hearing health are connected. Studies show that a healthy cardiovascular  system positively affects hearing. Conversely, inadequate blood flow and trauma  to the blood vessels of the inner ear can contribute to hearing loss. Some experts  even believe that because the inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow, it is  possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here  earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body—making the ear a kind of  “window to the heart.”

People with  diabetes are about twice as likely to have hearing loss as those without it.

Recent  studies show a link between hearing loss and dementia, leading many experts to  stress the importance of addressing hearing loss. One study found that seniors  with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time  than those who retain their hearing. Another found that hearing loss is  associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults, and that those  with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering  than older adults whose hearing is normal.

People who don’t address hearing loss are more prone to depression. Fortunately, studies  show that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids often have fewer  depressive symptoms, greater social engagement, and improved quality of life.

Hearing loss is tied to a three-fold risk of falling. One study found that even people with  mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of  falling.

A study of  older adults showed that those with moderate chronic kidney disease had a  higher prevalence of hearing loss than those of the same age without the  disease.

Hospitalization  is more likely for older adults with hearing loss than for their peers with  normal hearing, according to a study by experts at Johns Hopkins.

A  2013-published study found that older men with hearing loss had a  greater risk of dying, particularly from cardiovascular causes. But men and  women who used hearing aids—even though they were older and had more severe  hearing loss—had a significantly lower mortality risk than those with hearing  loss who did not use hearing aids.

Most doctors  don’t include hearing health as a routine part of annual exams. So ask to have  your hearing tested. Once you reach middle-age, it makes sense to include  hearing tests as part of your routine annual care.

It seems  that the “hearing bone” may be connected to more than we originally thought.

So the next  time you think you might be having trouble hearing something, listen to your  ears. They may be telling you something.

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