Physicians may be routinely asking patients whether they have had their hearing checked. Beyond referring patients for hearing tests and encouraging treatment of hearing loss, it is important to inform them of the risks if they ignore hearing loss – dangers that include certain life-threatening co-morbidities.
Risks of Ignoring Hearing Loss
Hearing loss and links to Dementia
Multiple studies indicate hearing loss can be linked to the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Leaving hearing loss untreated could pose a serious risk that has not been widely shared with the hearing-impaired population. Providing this information will encourage our patients and their loved ones to make more informed and timely decisions about their hearing care.
Hearing loss and increased risk of falling
Physicians routinely advise their older patients to exercise, have their vision checked, and monitor whether any medications may cause dizziness. In addition to these commonly known contributors to falls is untreated hearing loss, which has been linked in multiple studies to a signi cant increase in risk of falls. This information needs to be shared widely with patients over the age of 65, along with encouragement to seek treatment for hearing loss as part of an overall strategy to preserve health and life.
Hearing loss and links to cancer
Physicians are well aware of the many side e ects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. However, only in recent years has research addressed the risk of hearing loss and related conditions (e.g. tinnitus) as reported by numerous post-cancer treatment patients. These studies have revealed a strong link between hearing loss and cancer treatments, especially among certain chemotherapy medications. It is important for both physician and patient to understand the risk of ototoxicity when treating cancer, and its long-term implications, which may include permanent hearing loss.
Hearing loss and links to Diabetes
Researchers have discovered a higher rate of hearing loss in people with diabetes. Using tests that measure participants’ ability to hear at the low, mid, and high-frequencies in both ears, the results indicated a link between diabetes and hearing loss at all frequencies, with a somewhat stronger association in the high-frequency range. Mild or worse hearing of low- or mid-frequency sounds was about 21 percent in 399 adults with diabetes compared to about nine percent in 4,741 adults without. Mild or greater hearing impairment at high frequencies was 54 percent in those with diabetes compared to 32 percent in those without.
Hearing loss and heart health
Poor cardiovascular health causes inadequate blood ow and blood vessel trauma to the inner ear. The inner ear is so sensitive to blood ow that disorders such as hearing loss, particularly at the lower frequencies, may be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease.