[Audiology Concierge Network] Blog #2: Untreated Hearing Loss Linked to Greater Risk of Death

Untreated Hearing Loss Linked to Greater Risk of Death

If you think that hearing loss is simply a nuisance to deal with when out in noisy places, think again. A recent study has associated hearing loss with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease mortality before the age of 75. Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health’s Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center found that death among those with hearing loss is higher than among their hearing peers.

To come to their conclusions, the researchers looked at data from 50,462 adults who took part in a Norwegian Hearing Loss Study from 1996 to 1998. They then analysed data from the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry to confirm the number of deaths until 2016. They also found information such as marital status and number of children from the National Population Registry.

How hearing loss and cardiovascular disease are related

There is supporting evidence to suggest that poor cardiovascular health can result in hearing loss, which explains the connection between the two.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death, both in men and women, according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and nearly 610,000 people die in the United States every year. Those with heart disease may have a variety of medical problems that affect the heart’s structure and vessels. The most frequent types include those that cause chest pain or a heart attack or stroke, or narrow and block arteries. Others include those that impact the muscles, valves or rhythm of your heart.

Furthermore, studies showed that good circulation plays an important role in maintaining hearing health.

If you don’t get enough blood flow to the inner ear blood vessels, it can lead to hearing loss. That’s because the sensitive hair cells in the cochlea rely on good circulation. The cochlea plays an important role in interpreting the noise that your ears retrieve into electrical impulses that the brain interprets as identifiable sound. Poor circulation causes damage and destruction to these hair cells due to a lack of adequate oxygen. Since these hair cells do not regenerate, they will trigger a permanent loss of hearing.

Families can mitigate the increased mortality risk

One of the most interesting findings from the Columbia University study was about who would be most affected by mortalities related to hearing loss:

“Our findings verify that excess mortality among the hearing impaired can be particularly high among individuals with certain family constellations, such as men who are divorced or women who do not have children,” said Vegard Skirbekk, PhD, Columbia Aging Center faculty member and professor of Population and Family Health.

Although the effects of hearing loss can be higher among those who are divorced or separated, there is a silver lining.  The researchers found that mortality risk was diminished in adults who were served by a well-hearing partner. The partner is able to provide several levels of support to mitigate the negative effects of hearing loss:

  • Physical support: Compared to friends or weaker ties, families may be more likely to remain supportive for the person with hearing loss, even during poor health periods. This may minimize some of the mortality risk linked with physical impairments.
  • Social support: Having a partner may allow a person with hearing loss to be more socially active as the partner can provide support, suggest social activities and help them overcome barriers to communication with others.
  • Logistical support: A partner may also suggest and aid in the use of technical support such as hearing aids and, where possible, help the individual to seek professional help from a hearing professional.
  • Financial support: A separate study showed that hearing loss results in an average of $12,000 of income lost each year. However, being in a marriage can also act as protection against the adverse economic effects of hearing loss.

Each of these levels of support reduces the risk of mortality by helping improve the quality of life of the person with hearing loss. It takes an average of 7 years for people with hearing loss to do something about it, so perhaps the most important intervention from the well-hearing partner is encouraging the individual to take a hearing test.

Audiology Concierge Network

Take care of your hearing health and combat the negative effects of hearing loss by scheduling an appointment with a provider with Audiology Concierge Network. In most cases, we will even be able to come to you!