In Canada, it is estimated that approximately 35% of the population aged 20-79 has an age-related hearing loss. Yet only 4% of Canadians report having hearing loss. And they wait an average of 7 years or more before seeing a hearing health professional about it1.
This lack of concern for hearing health is a major issue, since untreated hearing loss affects more than just the person themselves. It also affects the people around them. In fact, age-related hearing loss frequently co-exists with other conditions (co-morbidity) such as cognitive impairment, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, among others2.
From Fatigue to Diabetes
Untreated hearing loss can, among other things, increase the risk of fatigue, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and dementia2. Fatigue, in particular, is common among people with hearing loss, likely because they have to concentrate harder to understand speech. As for cognitive decline, it may be a consequence of the decrease in cognitive stimulation caused by hearing loss.
Hearing loss can also cause some people to become more isolated as they try to avoid certain social interactions2. This causes the body to secrete more cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones, in turn, increase heart rate and blood pressure, dilute the pupils and bronchial tubes and affect digestion3.
Stress can also cause blood sugar levels to rise, which can, in the long term, create insulin resistance. Insulin lowers blood sugar levels, so insulin resistance may lead to the development of type II diabetes4. High blood sugar can also damage blood vessels, reducing blood flow to certain areas. The tissues that rely on those blood vessels end up being damaged because they are not receiving enough (or sometimes any) blood. Smaller blood vessels, such as those in the cochlea, are particularly vulnerable. In other words, hearing loss can be caused by irreversible damage to the inner ear5.
In conclusion, early detection and treatment of hearing loss can greatly improve quality of life and even reduce the risk of some medical conditions. This is why hearing health consultations are recommended from age 50 onward.
Talk to a hearing health professional for more information!
1. Statistics Canada. Unperceived hearing loss among Canadians aged 40 to 79. Online. Consulted on February 7, 2020.
2. Harvey Abrams. Hearing Loss and Associated Comorbidities: What Do We Know? Online. Consulted on January 30, 2020.
3. Maria Fornell, Solitude : ses impacts sur la santé. Online. Consulted on February 7, 2020.
4. Diabète Québec, Y a-t-il un lien entre le stress et le diabète? Online. Consulted on February 7, 2020.
5. CRUICKSHANKS, K. J. et al. Smoking, Central Adiposity and Poor Glycemic Control Increase Risk of Hearing Impairment. JournalAm Geriatr Soc., 63(5): 918–924. 2016.