If your standard reply to a question or comment is, “could you repeat that?” you could be suffering from hearing loss – and you wouldn’t be alone.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 15% of American adults report having trouble hearing. That said, many adults do not treat their hearing loss, with fewer than one in three adults over 70 who could benefit from hearing aids actually use them.

Even if you don’t mind continually saying, “come again?” and “pardon me?” leaving your hearing loss, untreated can adversely affect your health. Here’s how.

Hearing Loss Increases Your Risk of Dementia

If the thought of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s worries you, take note; hearing loss can certainly increase your risk. According to Johns Hopkins, studies have shown that mild hearing loss doubles the risk of developing dementia. In contrast, moderate hearing loss tripled the risk and – wait for it – severe hearing impairment increased the risk by a factor of five.

Dr. Frank Lin, M.D., who directed one study, reported that brain scans indicated faster brain atrophy in participants with hearing loss. Additionally, people with hearing loss often feel socially isolated, which may also contribute to dementia.

Age-related hearing loss is permanent but treatable with hearing aids.

Hearing Loss Can Contribute to Depression

Along with increasing your risk of dementia, the social isolation experienced by those with hearing loss can also contribute to feelings of depression. According to a 2014 study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, the instance of moderate to severe depression in adults increased with the severity of their hearing loss.

Of participants with excellent hearing, just 4.9% reported moderate to severe depression, while 7.1% of those with good hearing, 11.4% of those with a “little trouble or greater hearing impairment.” The study also found an increased risk of depression, particularly in women with hearing loss.

Combined with Vision Loss, Hearing Impairment Increases Your Risk of Injury

Both hearing and vision loss are the natural effects of aging. However, both of these conditions can affect your quality of life – and increase your risk of injury.

In a study published in AM J Public Health, researchers found disparities in health, activity, and social roles in older people with vision and/or hearing loss. Those disparities were greater in individuals with vision loss than in individuals with hearing loss, but the disparities were greatest in those suffering from both.

Low-Frequency Hearing Loss May Contribute to Heart Disease

You eat right and exercise, but you may have never considered how your ears factor into your risk for heart disease. Well, according to growing scientific evidence, there’s a link between hearing loss and cardiovascular disease. According to Charles E. Bishop, AuD, assistant professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences, “Hearing health should not be assessed in a vacuum. There is simply too much evidence that hearing loss is related to cardiovascular disease and other health conditions.”

Diabetics Suffer From Hearing Loss at Twice the Rate

When it rains, it pours – or so it may often feel with regard to your health. That’s certainly the case when you consider that people suffering from diabetes are also twice as likely to experience hearing loss, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Described as an “under-recognized complication of diabetes,” researchers have also found a higher occurrence of hearing loss in people with pre-diabetes, a condition which causes no symptoms but affects about 54 million adults in the United States, according to NIH.

Common Medications Can Cause Hearing Loss

It’s the ultimate irony – the medication you take to improve your health could contribute to hearing loss. That’s the case with more than 200 commonly used over-the-counter and prescription drugs that can cause ototoxicity or damage to the inner ear.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, ototoxicity causes hearing and balance problems, which may sometimes be reversed with the discontinuance of the medication.

Kidney Disease and Hearing Loss go Hand in Hand

They may seem completely unrelated, but the statistics don’t lie; an estimated 54% of American adults with chronic kidney disease suffer from hearing loss, according to the American Journal of Kidney Disease.

What’s more, 30% of those with chronic kidney disease suffer from severe hearing loss. While a cause-and-effect relationship between the two conditions has not yet been confirmed, there is certainly a correlation—and anyone with kidney disease should speak to their doctor about it.

Hearing Loss Increases the Risk of Falls

Along with hearing loss comes decreased spatial awareness and balance. Because of this, those who suffer from hearing impairment—even mild—are at a greater risk of falling.

Johns Hopkins study conducted by Dr. Frank Lin, M.D. found that a person with a mild, 25-decibel hearing loss was three times as likely to have a history of falling – and that likelihood rose as hearing loss worsened.

Hearing Loss is Treatable

While age-related hearing loss is a permanent condition, it is treatable with hearing devices. By treating your hearing loss, you can avoid many of the adverse health effects correlated with hearing loss, like depression, dementia, and risk of falling.

The House of Hearing, Northern Utah’s most trusted and experienced team of hearing and balance experts, can help you restore your health and quality of life by treating your hearing loss. For more information or to schedule an appointment – please call your local office today.

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Roshelle Leilua, BC-HIS

Roshelle Leilua has worked for the House of Hearing since 2010. She is a nationally board-certified hearing instrument specialist. Her interest in this field comes from having many friends who are hard of hearing and deaf for whom she learned basic sign language communication. She enjoys the personal relationships she has from working with her patients regularly.