Healthy Lifestyle – Healthy Hearing

Healthy Lifestyle – Healthy Hearing

Hearing loss is not merely for seniors or those with noise exposure but is also associated with other medical conditions.  There is emerging evidence for the association between hearing loss and both diabetes and poor cardiovascular health.  The prevention of hearing loss is yet another reason to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

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.  Undetected hearing loss can lead to depression, isolation and can put a strain on relationships with family and friends

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 can contribute to the prevention of hearing loss later in life.