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Linking hearing and overall health

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By Rex Banks, M.A. CCC-A, Reg. CASLPO, Chief Audiologist

There’s more to hearing loss than just “hearing” – it’s also about your health. An increasing and emerging body of evidence links hearing loss to other important health issues.

In conjunction with Speech and Hearing Awareness Month and to get the word out about hearing loss and health, CHS is offering a Community-Based Scholarship and Service Learning Placement as part of the Community, Population and Public Health course in the MD Program at the University of Toronto. Over the next year, CHS will be overseeing a research project conducted by a medical student focusing on numerous health conditions as they relate to hearing. At the conclusion of the project, CHS will have an archive of information to share which explains common issues related to hearing loss as well as the correlation of hearing loss to various health conditions.

As a ramp-up to CHS’ hearing health research project with the University of Toronto – here are five correlations of hearing loss to other health conditions for you to be aware of:

Dementia: A Johns Hopkins study of older adults found that hearing loss may accelerate brain function decline. Some experts believe that interventions, like hearing aids, could potentially delay or prevent dementia.

Diabetes: Studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss. One study showed that those 60 and younger are at greater risk.

Heart Disease: Studies have shown that a healthy cardiovascular system has a positive effect on hearing. Conversely, inadequate blood flow and trauma to the blood vessels of the inner ear can contribute to hearing loss.

Falls: A Johns Hopkins study showed that people in middle age (40 to 69) with even just mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. The idea is that hearing loss may affect your awareness of the overall environment, making tripping and falling more likely. Another possible explanation is cognitive load where the brain becomes overwhelmed with its limited resources. Some researchers believe that hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, resulting in fewer cognitive resources to help with overall balance.

Chronic Kidney Disease: Researchers say that structural and functional similarities between tissues in the inner ear and in the kidney may explain the link between moderate chronic kidney disease and hearing loss.

Identifying and addressing hearing loss can improve your quality of life in terms of your communication and your overall health. If you haven’t had your hearing tested, contact CHS and meet with one of our audiologists. Knowing the status of your hearing health is the smart thing to do, because it’s just not about hearing loss anymore.

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