Hearing and Your Health
By Serena Ransom
How does hearing loss relate to your overall health? There are many different health related issues that are linked to hearing loss.
Hearing loss, dementia, and memory loss
New research out of John Hopkins University by otologist Dr. Frank Lin, indicates having a hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia by almost 5x. The reason for this is because with the absence of sound, the brain works harder to interpret conversation. This increased cognitive load can increase the risk of dementia. Furthermore, individuals with hearing loss tend to withdraw from social situations which can decrease the use of certain areas of the brain.Hearing aids were shown to dramatically decrease the risk of dementia.
Source: Hearing Loss and Dementia- Frank Lin
Hearing loss and falls
Another recent study by Dr. Frank Lin suggests those with hearing loss have an increased risk of falling. Even a mild hearing loss can increase falls by up to 3x. His research suggests, for those with severe hearing loss, for every additional 10dB of hearing loss, the risk of falling increases by approximately 140%. One reason for this is because the inner ear processes sound and is also responsible for maintaining our balance. Another reason is due to the decrease in auditory cues which can affect the sense of awareness of one's surroundings. Hearing aids have been shown to mitigate these effects.
Hearing loss and diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop a hearing loss than those without. Although it is unclear as to the exact cause of this connection, researchers believe high blood sugar levels can be detrimental to the inner ear.
Hearing loss and smoking
Studies suggest individuals who smoke are 60% more likely to develop a high frequency hearing loss than those who are non-smokers. Smoking interferes with the neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve which is responsible for processing sounds. This in turn, leads to reduced immune systems, increased risk of ear infections, and decreased nerve function.
Hearing loss and depression
According to a study by the National Council on Aging, untreated hearing loss is linked to an increased risk of anxiety and depression. This is largely related to social isolation which generally comes with hearing loss. That being said, those with hearing loss who wore hearing aids, noticed a significant improvement in their overall mental health.
Improvement Reported by Hearing Aid User (%)
Improvement Reported by User's Family (%)
Relations at home
Feelings about self
Relations with children, grandchildren
Sense of safety
Relations at work
Source: American Academy of Audiology