How Hearing Loss Can Help Predict and Prevent Greater Health Problems
Hearing loss is commonly associated with aging, but impaired hearing may be more than an age-related malady. New research is showing that hearing loss may be linked closely to health. Using hearing loss as a warning sign could help predict and prevent heart disease and some cancers, as well as falls and the misdiagnosis of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
About Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a pervasive and hidden disability. It goes untreated in roughly 85 percent of persons affected. The problem is that for most people, the loss in auditory ability is very gradual. At first, the loss is very slight, and it may seem that people are not speaking as loudly as they once did or that there is too much ambient noise distracting from the conversation. Plus, even among people who do receive treatment for hearing loss, the devices are not wholly effective, so hearing is still somewhat limited, especially in social settings with background noise, like coffee shops or airports.
Hearing and Health
The human auditory system is part of the body, so it is bound to be affected by other things that affect the body, like nutrition, medication, and disease. Many of the mechanisms in the ear help people keep their balance. As such, as hearing fades, people are three times more likely to experience falls. In addition, hearing loss can be a side effect of certain drugs like the cancer treatments cisplatin and carboplatin. Careful monitoring can help make sure that patients are able to treat their cancers without losing their hearing.
As hearing loss worsens, many people become socially isolated. They may pretend to understand conversations without interacting, and they often withdraw from society, avoiding social settings with large amounts of background noises. The combination means they are going out less and communicating with friends less. In turn, the resulting loneliness can lead to inflammation throughout the body and make the person more vulnerable to conditions like heart disease and even dementia.
Hearing Loss and Dementia
Hearing loss is often mistaken for dementia. The person misunderstands something because he or she can’t hear properly and responds in a way that doesn’t make sense, then a well-meaning family member or doctor begins to suspect early signs of dementia. However, hearing loss is associated with dementia and is an early warning sign of the condition.
If you think you are experiencing hearing loss or are worried that your hearing loss may be a sign of something more, call the office of Dr. Darius Kohan at (212) 472-1300 for a consultation.