Losing your hearing ability can be devastating on its own, permanently changing the way you interact with the world. Yet, in some cases, hearing loss may be a symptom or outcome of other, more serious health issues. Known as comorbidities, there are many ailments that can accompany hearing loss.
The comorbidities of hearing loss range from physical disorders to mental conditions, and worsening hearing can be the first sign of these other health issues. Here is a brief overview of these conditions and how they’re connected to hearing loss.
Strokes, heart attacks, and coronary artery disease are all outcomes of poor cardiovascular health. But one of the first signs of cardiovascular disease is blood vessel trauma to the inner ear, which damages your fragile hearing nerves and causes hearing loss.
Individuals with diabetes are found to be twice as likely to have hearing loss than those without the condition. Similar to how diabetes patients often experience tingling in their fingers and toes due to nerve damage, high blood sugar from diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear, resulting in loss of hearing.
The thyroid produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism, and any disorder of the thyroid can affect other parts of the body, such as energy level, heartrate, and hearing. While the exact connection is still being researched, thyroid conditions like Pendred syndrome, Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s disease are all linked to hearing loss.
There is a clear link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. It’s believed that straining constantly to hear and understand speech can exhaust the brain and inhibit its ability to perform at peak level. At the same time, hearing loss can cause people to withdraw from social interactions for fear of embarrassment or due to frustration, which can accelerate cognitive decline.
In addition to physical ailments, loss of hearing can take an emotional toll and lead to depression. The simple fact of not hearing as well as you used to, and missing out on sounds once enjoyed, can trigger depression. Just as critical is the effect on personal relationships – not being able to hear other people, or constantly asking family and friends to repeat themselves, can strain relationships and increase negative emotions like anxiety, stress, and alienation—all known contributors to clinical depression.
Understanding that hearing loss can be a sign of more serious conditions and taking the appropriate actions is crucial to maintaining your hearing and your health. If you think you may have hearing loss, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to get your hearing tested and discuss the potential comorbidities that may affect you.