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Hearing & Your Health | Hearing Institute Atlantic
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Hearing & Your Health

Have You Heard?

Hearing loss is not merely for seniors or those with noise exposure but is also associated with other medical conditions. Prevention of poor hearing health is yet another reason to pursue a healthy, active lifestyle.There is emerging evidence suggesting a higher prevalence of hearing loss in people with poor cardiovascular heath, diabetes, kidney disease and poor cognitive function such as dementia.

If you or a loved one experience any of these health conditions a hearing test should be part of your overall health and wellness checklist.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that has well known complications including vision loss, kidney failure, and loss of sensation in the feet, particularly if the diabetes is poorly controlled. Routine monitoring of these systems helps detect and address deficits early.  Less attention is given to the association between diabetes and hearing loss.

Hearing loss is more prevalent in people with diabetes.  Studies have shown that diabetes damages the inner ear.  Like many organs that become impaired in people with diabetes, the association with hearing loss is likely due to the effects of elevated blood sugar and inflammatory changes in small blood vessels and nerves in the auditory system.

Routine audiological evaluation in diabetic patients allows early detection of hearing loss, which can improve communication and quality of life.  While it is recommended that everyone have an audiological evaluation it is especially important for individuals newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Cardiovascular

Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is a well-known phenomenon but there is great deal of variation in hearing abilities among older adults. This variation may be in part due to difference in cardiovascular health in this population.  Good cardiovascular health is associated with better hearing and recent studies have found that individuals over the age of 50 with good cardiovascular health have better hearing sensitivity than those with poor cardiovascular health.  Fitness levels may act to preserve hearing sensitivity in old age.

Hearing can be impacted by many different factors and living a healthy lifestyle may contribute to the prevention of hearing loss later in life.

Ageing

As we age there a lot of changes in both the ear and in the brain that can impact the way we hear.  The auditory system is made up of the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear and the brain.  Age-related changes can occur in each but most of the changes take place in the inner ear and brain.  The inner ear contains hair cells that are susceptible to damage as we age, particularly affecting how we hear high-pitched sounds.  In the brain, neural slowing occurs that can be attributed to cellular changes in neurons, which transmit and process information.  A combination of changes in the inner ear and brain cause age-related hearing loss.

The normal aging process also affects such skills as selective attention, short-term memory, processing speed, reaction time and sensitivity to soft sounds.  Many of these help us to carry on conversations, to localize sound and aid in the ability to hear in noisy settings.  As seniors these tasks aren’t preformed as efficiently as younger adult brains.  As a result, there is more difficulty organizing sound into meaningful information. Age-related changes in the auditory system reflect the importance of regular hearing tests for seniors.

Dementia

Hearing loss and dementia is a new topic in the field of audiology.  Some risk factors for dementia include low social interactions and activities, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes and hypertension. Research has now identified a possible connection between dementia and hearing loss.

While the connection between hearing loss and dementia is unknown at this time it may be caused by several different mechanisms. First, hearing loss and dementia may have a common neuropathologic process. Second, hearing loss may cause a decrease in cognitive reserve. In other words, the burden of difficult listening environments over time in those with hearing loss may put a strain on such processes as working memory. Third, social isolation and/or loneliness as a result of hearing loss may contribute to a higher risk of dementia. Studies have shown that individuals who are active and engaged have a lower dementia risk. If hearing loss and dementia are related through this mechanism it is possible that hearing aids and aural rehabilitation may play a role in the prevention of dementia. Unrecognized hearing loss can be mistaken for cognitive decline so it is of utmost importance  that a routine hearing test be completed for individuals dealing with dementia.

Having your hearing tested regularly can help to ensure you enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle. Call today to schedule your hearing test at any of our full service hearing health clinics. HRM 902-982-1470 or Bridgewater 1-855-557-0717 (Toll Free)