How much do you know about the reasons for hearing loss? Or, more specifically, are you well informed about the links between hearing loss and a number of diseases and medical conditions?
Fact is hearing loss is not a self-contained impairment limited just to your ears. Many different studies conducted here and abroad have demonstrated that quite a few serious ailments can impact our hearing. It just goes to show that all the bodily organs and functions are tightly interconnected: When one system or organ fails, it sends rippling effects through the others. Your hearing is not immune to this insidious process.
Kidney Disease and Hearing Loss
The most recent study, reported this month in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, indicates that older people who suffer from moderate chronic kidney disease (CKD) may require screening and treatment for hearing loss.
Australian researchers examined the medical records of 2,564 people aged 50 and over, 513 of whom had moderate chronic kidney disease. Some 54.4 percent of all the patients with chronic kidney disease had some degree of hearing loss, as compared to 28.3 percent of those who had no kidney problems. Severe hearing loss affected nearly 30 percent of the CKD patients, compared to only 10 percent of the others.
What is the correlation between the CKD and hearing loss? According to researchers, "The link can be explained by structural and functional similarities between tissues in the inner ear and in the kidney. Additionally, toxins that accumulate in kidney failure can damage nerves, including those in the inner ear."
Also, some treatments for kidney ailments can affect hearing.
Of course, this doesn't mean that if you have kidney disease, your hearing capacity will be automatically diminished. However, to be on a safe side, experts suggest having your hearing tested if you have been diagnosed with a kidney disorder, and even more so if you are treated with medications that can potentially damage hearing.
That's Not All...Diabetes Risk
Unfortunately, there is a proven correlation between hearing loss and many other diseases as well. Take diabetes, for example. Type 2 diabetes and hearing loss have been medically linked for many years: A study funded by the National Institutes of Health indicates that hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease. Additionally, Meniere's disease, a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance, may also be caused by diabetes.
How are diabetes and hearing loss correlated? Researchers believe that hearing impairment in diabetics is caused by damage to the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear, the same damage that causes infections of the feet and damage to the eye's retina.
If you have (or think you may have) diabetes, you should obviously be under a doctor's supervision to make sure you are properly treated. And, don't forget to have regular hearing tests as part of your routine screening.
The Heart Of The Matter
You know that a strong heart and cardiovascular system in general are essential for good health, right? But did you know that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a factor in hearing loss?
Think of the cochlea, a snail-shaped, fluid filled tube in your inner ear that plays an important part in your hearing by translating sound into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain. You may not immediately think there is a connection between the heart and the cochlea, but remember what we said at the beginning of this article: All our organs and bodily functions are linked.
As an example, Wisconsin researchers found that people with a history of heart disease were on average 54 percent more likely to have impaired cochlear function than adults without CVD.
Not only that, but international research shows that some of the factors that cause CVD can also put our hearing at risk. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity have also been linked in studies to loss of hearing – in addition to other serious complications, of course, such as heart attacks and strokes.
Unfortunately, there is more bad news: cancer patients can also experience hearing loss because many chemotherapy drugs are toxic to the hearing organs.
You may be wondering by now whether there is anything positive you can take away from this article.
Some of the diseases mentioned above could be prevented by smart lifestyle choices such as a healthy, low-fat diet, regular exercise, and, if you are a smoker, quitting (especially since cigarettes can also be bad for your hearing). And, medical supervision and proper treatment should, of course, go hand-in-hand with healthy lifestyle.
As far as hearing is concerned, the "take-home" message is this: If you suffer from any of the above-mentioned conditions, have your hearing routinely tested. If it turns out that your hearing is impaired, get fitted for hearing aids to ensure quality of life and your hearing stay healthy. If only treating all the other conditions were that easy!