Skip to main content

Pooler Magazine

The Hearing Bone’s Connected to the What?

The Hearing Bone’s Connected to the What?

by Dr. Casey Allen

When we think of hearing loss, most people only think of day-to-day communication and the challenges decreased hearing can cause with communication. However, there are a lot of other health issues also tied to hearing loss. A common misconception about hearing loss is that it is age-related. Age is a big factor in decreased hearing, but hearing loss is not biased in who it affects.

A great example to note is a reminder that we test babies for hearing loss before they are discharged from the hospital as part of the Newborn Hearing Screening.

Very often, people aren’t aware of hearing loss because it occurs slowly over a matter of years. The signs may be subtle—you keep having to turn the TV up or you struggle to hear your grandkids. Even after diagnosis, people wait an average of 10 years to get the hearing aids that’ll help them hear better.

That is a mistake best avoided since failing to treat hearing impairment can result in auditory deprivation—and over time, the parts of your brain responsible for hearing can shrink or atrophy from lack of use. Yes, you read that right…brain shrinkage can occur if you don’t treat your hearing loss.

Some other health issues often tied to hearing loss include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, increased risk of falling, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and chronic kidney disease. To further explain these related health issues:

•          Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)—It is believed that CVD can reduce blood flow to the ear and in turn cause damage to different parts of the auditory system. This damage typically results in a sensorineural hearing loss which is permanent and often managed with amplification.

•          Diabetes—Hearing loss is two times as likely for those with diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear. Low blood sugar over time can damage how the nerve signals travel from the inner ear to your brain. Both types of nerve damage can lead to hearing loss.

•          Depression—Social isolation is a big consequence of hearing loss. We often hear patients tell us how they do not want to go to group activities or outings as they notice changes in hearing because they cannot participate in conversation.

•          Falling—Hearing loss is tied to a 3-fold risk of falling.

•          Chronic Kidney Disease—Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent in patients with chronic renal failure than in the general population.

These are just a few of the health concerns linked with hearing loss. There is no downside to using hearing aids and they absolutely help the majority of individuals who try them. If you think your hearing has diminished, it’s worth making an appointment with a Doctor of Audiology for a hearing check. The longer you wait the harder it will be to treat your hearing loss. As many hearing providers say, use it or lose it.