Are you concerned that you or someone close to you may already be suffering from hearing loss? As many as one in two Canadians aged 20-79 live with some degree of hearing difficulty. With so many people struggling with hearing loss, it’s essential to keep an eye out for the warning signs in yourself and your loved ones.
While most people know that consistent noise exposure can lead to hearing loss, few are aware of the underlying health conditions which can contribute just as much — or even more — to this condition. From genetics to infections, at Toronto Hearing, we have an understanding of what causes (and contributes) to ear damage, allowing us to provide detailed analysis and specialized treatments for those affected by hearing impairments.
In today’s blog post, we’ll be speaking about five health conditions that may increase your risk of developing a hearing problem.
1. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, medically known as hypertension, has been identified as a potential contributing factor to hearing loss, affecting millions worldwide.
This health condition can damage the delicate structures within the ear, leading to reduced auditory capacities. Specifically, the elevated pressure in the blood vessels can compromise the blood supply to the stria vascularis and cochlea — two vital components responsible for generating the electrochemical impulses necessary for sound interpretation.
Furthermore, hypertension can exacerbate existing damage or age-related degradation in the intricate auditory neural pathways. Recent research has also uncovered possible correlations between hypertension-induced arterial stiffness and the increased likelihood of developing sensorineural hearing loss. High blood pressure is a health issue that can go unchecked for many years, so it is crucial for individuals to monitor their blood pressure and adopt lifestyle changes to protect their auditory system and overall well-being.
Diabetes, a prevalent metabolic disorder affecting millions of individuals worldwide, has been increasingly linked to hearing loss in recent years. Research has illuminated that people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing impairment compared to those without the ailment. The intricate connection between these two conditions can be attributed to the damaging impact of heightened blood glucose levels in the delicate auditory mechanisms.
As high sugar levels persist, they cause injury to the blood vessels and nerves within the inner ear, leading to compromised auditory function. Moreover, chronic inflammation associated with diabetes exacerbates damage to the fragile cochlear cells, rendering them susceptible to deterioration. Consequently, individuals with diabetes are predisposed to sensorineural hearing loss, which stems from the irreversible loss of auditory cells responsible for transmitting sound stimuli to the brain. Understanding this correlation is crucial to promote regular hearing screenings for diabetic patients, ensuring timely interventions and preservation of their overall well-being.
3. Blocked Arteries
Blocked arteries, or atherosclerosis, is a medical condition in which plaque builds up within the arterial walls, leading to reduced blood flow and potential complications for overall health. One such complication that may arise from this decreased blood flow is hearing loss.
The restricted blood supply compromises the integrity of the delicate cells within the inner ear, causing damage to the hair cells that convert sound into electrical signals for the brain, ultimately resulting in hearing impairment. Furthermore, it has been found that individuals with atherosclerosis are more likely to develop both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, as blocked arteries can not only affect the cochlea but also impede the function of the eustachian tube — a structure responsible for maintaining pressure balance in the middle ear. Thus, maintaining cardiovascular health and ensuring proper blood flow to the auditory organs is crucial in preventing the hearing loss associated with blocked arteries.
4. Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases, which occur when the immune system attacks healthy cells, can have a profound impact on an individual’s auditory function, resulting in hearing loss. This intricate connection between the immune system and hearing health has been substantiated through numerous research studies, indicating that disorders such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Cogan’s syndrome, and Susac syndrome are few among many that can cause sensorineural hearing loss.
This type of hearing loss occurs when the delicate hair cells within the cochlea, responsible for transmitting sound signals to the auditory nerve, are damaged or destroyed due to the body’s immune response. Furthermore, autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED) deserves special mention as it specifically targets the inner ear, causing sudden or progressive hearing loss that, if left untreated, can result in permanent impacts on hearing ability.
Advanced diagnostic methods and innovative therapeutic approaches, such as immunosuppressive drugs and cochlear implants, have provided notable improvements for individuals grappling with hearing loss caused by autoimmune diseases.
5. Certain Medications
Numerous medications have the potential to contribute to varying degrees of hearing loss, further complicating the myriad of side effects that patients must contend with. These drugs, known as ototoxic medications, can impact the delicate structures within the ear responsible for hearing and balance.
Over 200 known ototoxic drugs exist, spanning several categories, including antibiotics, diuretics, and chemotherapy agents. The extent of hearing impairment induced by these medications can vary from transient tinnitus to permanent hearing loss, depending on factors such as dosage, duration of use, and individual susceptibility.
Fortunately, timely intervention and monitoring can significantly mitigate the risk of permanent hearing damage.
Tips for Protecting Your Hearing Health & When to Seek Professional Help
Hearing loss is a widespread health issue that can have lasting impacts on one’s overall well-being, making it vital to prioritize preventative measures.
One effective strategy to deter this affliction is to be conscious of noise pollution by avoiding environments with excessive sound levels, such as concerts and construction sites, or by wearing protective gear like earplugs when exposure is unavoidable. Also, maintaining a safe volume when listening to music or watching television, commonly following the 60/60 rule – which involves keeping the volume of your devices below 60% and listening for no more than 60 minutes a day – can significantly reduce risks associated with auditory damage.
Regular auditory check-ups by professionals, especially for those working in noisy environments, will aid in the early detection and remediation of hearing loss. Moreover, people who have the health conditions or medications listed in this blog may benefit from regular checkups with an audiologist.
If you live in Toronto and think you may be developing hearing loss, Toronto Hearing Consultants can help. At Toronto Hearing Consultants, our team has worked with many patients like you to overcome their hearing loss and get back to living their full lives.
Let our audiologists help you get started on the path to better hearing – we’ll be with you every step of the way. Click the button below to contact us and get started today!