WHICH STYLE BEST SUITS YOU AND YOUR HEARING LOSS?

As we have discussed in previous articles, there are many factors that go into investing in hearing aids.  Our priority, first and foremost, is basing technology and components inside the units on your lifestyle to ensure they are doing their job for the life you want to live.  It should not be based on what the hearing aid looks like.  With that being said, there are many different styles of hearing aids.  The range of style options allows hearing care professionals to work with the wants and needs of each patient; however,....

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HEARING VERSUS UNDERSTANDING

Too often, the process in which we hear is overlooked.  As a hearing care professional, it is crucial for patients to recognize how our ears and brain work in order to understand the process in which we hear vs. how we understand.  I have worked with many patients and feel that the most successful have a clear understanding of these differences which provides realistic expectations during the hearing aid process.

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MEDICAL CAUSES OF HEARING LOSS

Did you know your health could be negatively affecting your hearing? It’s true!  Hearing loss is associated with a number of different health problems ranging from hypertension to heart health. Today’s article is not to scare you, rather to inform you, and a lot of information will be hard. Working with your primary care physician or another certified healthcare professional can go a long way, especially when we are talking about medical causes for hearing loss.

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MEDICAL CAUSES OF HEARING LOSS

Did you know your health could be negatively affecting your hearing? It’s true!  Hearing loss is associated with a number of different health problems ranging from hypertension to heart health. Today’s article is not to scare you, rather to inform you, and a lot of information will be hard. Working with your primary care physician or another certified healthcare professional can go a long way, especially when we are talking about medical causes for hearing loss.


Hypertension

Hypertension, commonly called high blood pressure, can increase the risk of permanent, sensorineural, hearing loss because of issues within the blood vessels. Essentially, when an individual has high blood pressure it means blood is being pushed through the arteries very quickly which can cause damage to the lining of the artery walls. This damage isn’t centered in one area of the body, the entire body can be affected, including the ears. When blood vessels in the ears are affected the damage effects the efficiency of hair cells and cells within the auditory system. For individuals with hypertension, control is crucial.


Diabetes

Many studies have shown a correlation between diabetes and hearing loss. US data analyzed individuals with diabetes between 50 and 69 years of age. Seventy percent of participants had high-frequency

hearing loss and one third have low or mid frequency hearing loss. Kathleen Bainbridge, Ph.D., published Annals of Internal Medicine and found individuals with diabetes to be twice as likely to have hearing loss as those who do not have diabetes. Individuals who were pre-diabetic had a 30% higher rate of hearing loss than those who do not have diabetes.


Similar to hypertension, diabetes could be affecting the blood vessels. Another theory is that diabetes could be causing changes in sensory neurons within the auditory nerve causing peripheral nerve damage; which some already experience in their hands and feet. It is very important for individuals with diabetes to maintain good blood glucose control in order to decrease the risk of hearing loss.


High Cholesterol

More than 15 million Americans now take medication to control cholesterol levels while others do not know they have it or are treating it with dietary and lifestyle changes. The Journal of Nutrition conducted a study with over 2400 participants. Their results indicated those with the highest level of cholesterol had a 33% higher change of having severe hearing loss. Those who reported using medication to

control cholesterol were less likely to have hearing loss. Point being, work closely with your doctor in order to control high cholesterol as much as possible, because you might be preventing possible hearing loss at the same time.


Smoking and Hearing

LossFor 40 years we have known that there is a correlation between smoking and hearing loss. This information has really come to light in the last 15 years and there is evidence that smoking affects every aspect of our auditory system. “Cigarette Smoking and Hearing Loss: The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, assessed the correlation between smoking and hearing loss. Results indicated individuals who smoke are almost twice as likely as nonsmokers to develop hearing loss. Additionally, those exposed to second hand smoke were more likely to have hearing loss than those who had never been exposed. Smoking often leads to respiratory infections which can affect our middle ear and potentially lead to middle ear infections possibly causing conductive hearing loss. Damage to the inner ear, specifically our hair cells within the organ of hearing, can be damaged. Damage can also occur along the auditory pathways. Either of these types of damage is permanent, leading to a sensorineural hearing loss.


Ototoxicity

There are medications on the market that can damage the organ of hearing causing hearing loss, tinnitus and/or balance issues. How many of these medications are available?  Over 200. Some medications include aspirin, loop diuretics, aminoglycoside antibiotics, environmental chemicals and cancer fighting agents. First and foremost, before beginning any of these agents, have a baseline audiologic evaluation completed. This will allow the audiologist to have a baseline in order to properly monitor ototoxic exposure. Currently there are two different ways to equate the changes in hearing caused by ototoxicity. First is the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) which has four different grades and was created for adults. Second is the Brock Criteria which has Grade 0 through Grade 4 and was designed for children. An audiologist will determine the proper grade following a diagnostic evaluation. Regular evaluations are highly suggested to properly monitory changes in hearing.


Kidney Disease

In utero, our kidneys and ears are developing at the same time. Because of this, the tissues in the kidney and inner ear are very similar and share the same metabolic function. In turn, problems that affect kidney function can also damage the inner ear. The American Journal of Kidney Diseases indicated that individuals who suffer from moderate chronic kidney disease may require audiologic evaluations and treatment for hearing loss. Why? Their research found approximately 54% of individuals with chronic kidney disease had some degree of hearing loss. Be on the safe side and have your hearing tested in order to monitor potential changes.


Hearing Loss and Dementia

I have always said if an individual cannot hear what’s being said how are they going to remember it?  Now there is research to prove this to be true. In 2015 the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society completed the “Self-Reported Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-year Study”. Their research found that using hearing aids helped reduce the risk of cognitive decline in adults with hearing loss. Two groups of individuals were assessed; those 65 years of age or older with hearing aids and those 65 years of age or older without hearing aids. Both groups were compared to a control group. Those without hearing aids had a significantly greater decline in cognitive function than those with hearing aids; therefore suggesting a strong correlation between untreated hearing loss and the rate of cognitive decline.


Heart Health

The American Heart Association has estimated that 60 to 70% of Americans, including children between ages 2 and 19, are overweight or obese. The American Journal of Medicine conducted a 2-year Harvard Nurses’ Health Study in 2013. Their results indicated excess weight increased an individual’s chance of hearing loss. One of six involved in the study had hearing loss. Overall, individuals who were considered over weight were 17 to 22 percent more likely to have hearing loss than those with normal body mass index. Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise is key in preventing cardiovascular disease and the hearing loss it can cause.


Conclusion

In The Ear is a Window to the Heart: A Modest Argument for a Closer Integration of Medical Disciplines Charles Bishop, Au.D. stated, “There is simply too much evidence that hearing loss is related to cardiovascular disease and other health concerns. It’s time we maximized the information we have in order to benefit the individual’s overall well-being.”  If you or anyone you know falls into one of these categories, please schedule an audiologic evaluation with an audiologist as soon as possible.

DR. BREWER

Dr. Brewer completed her Doctor of Audiology degree at the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine and her undergraduate degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology at Miami University in Oxford, OH. She is licensed by the state of Kentucky as an audiologist and hearing instrument specialist. She is also a member of the American Academy of Audiology, Academy of Doctors of Audiology, Kentucky Academy of Audiology and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  

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