Hearing loss is the third most common health concern for older adults in the US, just between rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease. While it may not seem as acute of an issue at first, it’s surprising how devastating it can be. What starts as a condition which affects your ability to communicate and be aware of sounds in the world can quickly turn into a strain on the relationships in every aspect of your personal and professional life. In addition, it can cause cognitive decline, chronic depression, social isolation, reduced mobility and a higher risk of falls and accidents leading to hospitalizations and even higher rates of morbidity.
One in three people over 65 suffer from hearing loss and this number jumps to 50 percent of those affected for those 75 and older. As the risk of hearing loss rises, it’s important to understand that while you can’t always prevent hearing loss, there are some things which can reduce your risk. Here are a few tips to lower the risk of hearing loss or at least reduce its impact. Now that the New Year is here, what better time to make some changes to protect your hearing for the future.
Manage your blood pressure and cardiac health
Your total health is connected. If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, it surprises many that this can affect hearing as well. While we collect sound with our ears, it must reach our brain for speech to be interpreted and sounds to be identified. Our ears achieve this at the end of the ear canal in a small snail shaped organ called the cochlea. Within are tiny hair-like cells encased in fluid. As vibrations of sound move the fluid in the cochlea it affects these hair-like cells, called stereocilia. Stereocilia transform audio vibrations into electrical impulses which are received by the auditory cortex of the brain – the part of the brain which interprets sound.
How is heart disease and high blood pressure connected? Well, the heart affects blood delivery to every cell in our body including the stereocilia, which are incredibly fragile and depend on a steady supply of blood to the ears. When we struggle with unmanaged cardiovascular disease and hypertension it affects the cell health of our ears increasing the risk of hearing loss. Talk to your doctor about strategies to maintain your heart and blood pressure today.
Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption
The holidays are here and that means for many that it’s time to indulge and relax. Alcohol every now and then can be nice for some people, but if you don’t have your alcohol use under control it can affect the way your brain processes sound.
If you are still smoking in 2023, we also want to remind you of one more negative side-effect- hearing loss. Many of the chemicals in tobacco products are ototoxic, meaning they damage the stereocilia, increasing the risk of hearing loss significantly.
Keep diabetes under control
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you know it’s time to take extra care to watch what you eat, how active you are and to take your recommended medications religiously in order to keep your blood sugar at a safe level. Unmoderated, diabetes is believed to double your chances of hearing loss- as it can obstruct your inner ear from absorbing the nutrients it needs to maintain health.
Exercise and practice stress reduction
Aside from building muscle, increasing cardiovascular health and improving mood, what is not to love about regular exercise? Here is one more reason to commit to a regular exercise routine in 2023—it helps maintain your hearing. When our blood flows freely, the cells of the inner ear receive the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Eat a balanced diet
In 2023 we recommend eating to heal your body. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains will support healthy cells including those of the inner ear. Whole foods hold important vitamins and nutrients which support your cell health.You can indulge in processed sugars every now and then but know your limits!
Schedule a hearing exam
Many people with hearing loss don’t even know they have a problem. If you suspect you’re having trouble hearing the people and the world around you, it’s time to explore the extent of your hearing ability. Contact us today.