Health Risks Associated with Hearing Loss

by | May 20, 2024 | Hearing Loss

The WHO estimates more than 1.5 billion people (nearly 20% of the global population) live with a hearing loss; 430 million of them have a disabling hearing loss. Out of that 1.5 billion, approximately 34 million are children.

This is a growing problem that is expected to nearly double by 2050 and it is costly. Unaddressed hearing loss costs the global economy US$980 billion annually due to health sector costs (excluding the cost of hearing devices), costs of educational support, loss of productivity and the cost of healthcare issues related to it.

Many assume that not being able to hear as well as you used to is just a part of growing old. You and those around you just have to talk louder, turn up the volume on the TV and repeat themselves during conversation.

However, there are significant health risks associated with hearing loss that you need to be aware of before you dismiss your hearing challenges as something you “just have to deal with.”

Port Credit Audiology & Hearing Aid Clinic is doing all that we can to raise awareness and educate on the impact of hearing loss on our community, including the health risks associated with untreated hearing loss.

Defining Hearing Loss and Its Causes

Before we take the next step, allow me to take a moment to provide a definition and some of the common causes of hearing loss.

Someone with normal hearing has hearing thresholds of 20 dB or better in both ears. Hearing loss means that an individual requires a higher volume or a higher dB level to hear sounds at various frequencies.

Mild hearing loss requires up to 40 dB of volume in order to hear the same sound as someone with normal hearing, while someone with a moderate hearing loss requires up to 55 dB. Up to 70 dB of intensity are required for someone with a moderately severe hearing loss, up to 90 dB for a person with a severe hearing loss and up to 120 dB for someone whose hearing loss is profound.

Although age-related hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss, it can also be found in children due to hereditary conditions and chronic middle ear infections. The second most common cause of developed hearing loss is noise-induced hearing loss, which is the result of unprotected exposure to loud noise.

Another cause of hearing loss involves damage to the inner ear from using any or several of approximately 200 ototoxic medications, as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Health Risks Associated with Hearing Loss

Your ability to effectively communicate with others is a critical element in living an active and independent lifestyle. When communication is limited by hearing challenges, it begins to significantly impact your physical and mental health in several different ways.

1. Social Isolation and Dementia

As your ability to communicate decreases, there is a drop in self-esteem and confidence. You begin to avoid many social gatherings and no longer access community services because you cannot keep up with the conversations around you. The discomfort of dealing with others leads to social withdrawal.

A recent study by Johns Hopkins expert Frank Lin revealed that your risk of developing dementia doubles due to mild hearing loss, triples for those with a moderate hearing loss and you have a five times increased risk of dementia if you have a severe hearing impairment.

Lin explains further. “Brain scans show us that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain. Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are, you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia.”

2. Walking and Balance Disorders

In addition to dementia, those with a hearing loss tend to have trouble walking and develop balance disorders.

Lin explains that your ears pick up subtle cues as you walk in order to help with balance. Because these cues are muffled, your brain must work harder to process sound and this subconscious multitasking may interfere with some of the mental processing needed to walk safely.

In addition, sensorineural hearing loss involves damage to the cilia (hair-like cells in the inner ear) that are not only necessary for hearing but also play a critical role in helping you maintain your balance. Damage to the cilia causes them to send false signals to the brain, leading to balance disorders.

3. Chronic Stress

Struggling to hear, regardless of age, can lead to the loss of employment, poor performance in school, breakdowns in relationships and many other stressful circumstances.

According to the American Psychological Association, the long-term activation of the stress response system can disrupt almost all of your body’s physiological processes. The physical and mental health problems that typically follow include anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, muscle tension and pain, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep problems, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment.

Chronic stress is not only associated with causing disease but can also lead to overeating, smoking and other bad habits people use to cope with stress. Chronic stress can also suppress your body’s immune system, making it more difficult to recover from illnesses.

Addressing Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be prevented through individual lifestyle choices such as exposure to loud sounds and music or wearing protective equipment like earplugs at work, during social events or when engaged in certain recreational activities that involve loud noise.

The impact of hearing loss can be reduced through early detection and intervention. Consequently, regular hearing assessments are one of your best options for addressing your hearing loss before it begins to have an impact on your day-to-day living and quality of life.

Assistive technologies, including hearing aids, cochlear implants, closed captioning and other devices can help people with hearing challenges at any age. The use of these technologies can prevent social isolation, reduce stress and eliminate issues with balance.

Concerned about Your Hearing?

Your hearing can have a significant impact on your overall health, reducing your quality of life and limiting your capacity to live an active and independent lifestyle. If you’re experiencing difficulty with your hearing, it’s time to get the help you need before things get worse.

Port Credit Audiology & Hearing Aid Clinic is eager to help you take the first steps to better hearing and better health with an accurate hearing assessment and the necessary treatment options to address your hearing challenges.

Contact us to schedule a hearing assessment or give us a call at 905-990-3755.

Schedule a Hearing Assessment

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Dario Coletta

Dario Coletta M.Sc., Au.D., Reg. CASLPO Doctor of Audiology is the head Audiologist of Port Credit Audiology & Hearing Aid Clinic. Dario obtained his Doctor of Audiology from A.T. Still University and Master of Science in Audiology from the University of British Columbia following his Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto. He currently holds lecturer status at the University of Toronto in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Dario continues to work part-time at the Toronto General Hospital and has knowledge in advanced diagnostics, bespoke hearing aid fittings, and cerumen management. Dario also has a special interest in managing and counselling patients with tinnitus. He brings knowledge and efficiency in prescribing and fitting the newest hearing aid technology, and is committed to helping patients find an individualized solution for their hearing healthcare concerns.