Your body is amazingly interconnected. When something goes wrong in one part, often it’s a sign of issues elsewhere. It may even be your first sign that you need to get something else checked out. Such is the case with your ears.
Because they include some of the most fragile cells in your body, they’re often the first to warn you about other potential health problems coming down the pike.
Getting a hearing test doesn’t just tell you if you have hearing loss. It offers you a window into your overall health. It’s your early detection test for many other troublesome conditions. Here are just a few of the things that are sometimes revealed by a simple hearing evaluation.
1. Heart & circulatory problems
Strokes, heart attacks, blood clots, and neuropathy (a type of nerve pain) are often the later manifestations of heart disease, circulation issues, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. But long before the worst of these diagnoses come into existence, a hearing specialist can identify possible blood flow issues in the inner ear.
Unlike other parts of your body, your inner ear (where hearing happens) only has one blood vessel supplying nutrients and oxygen. Because of this, it’s highly susceptible to damage. Struggling to hear your daughter on the phone may be one of the first signs that you’re traveling down the road to serious heart problems.
2. Permanent side effects of Rx drugs
Some opiates, chemo, diuretics, and antibiotics can lead to hearing problems. If you experience hearing loss or ringing of the ears after starting these drugs, you should consider a hearing test. Early detection is key to preventing further damage and can help you make informed decisions with your doctor about which prescription drugs to take.
3. Rheumatoid Arthritis
One study showed that people with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) are nearly 300% more likely to develop hearing loss.
RA is an autoimmune disorder in which a person’s immune system attacks otherwise healthy cells, eventually killing those cells. Because the inner ear is so fragile, it may be one of the first parts of the body where RA is noticed. If the RA is left untreated, it will cause permanent, debilitating damage all over the body.
Finding it early means you can manage it.
4. Unmanaged diabetes
People with unmanaged diabetes are at a higher risk of hearing loss. Doctors believe that the increased glucose (sugar) in the blood weakens the blood vessel that transports food to the inner ear in addition to damaging the delicate inner ear nerve cells directly.
If you have diabetes, a hearing test may be able to tell you if you’re doing enough to manage it.
5. Meniere’s disease
This is an imbalance of fluid in the middle ear. It causes dizziness, falling, nausea, and often ringing of the ears. Some hearing tests can help identify it so that you can get treatment.
6. Paget’s disease
Paget’s is a bone disorder in which the bones in the head grow larger than they should. In later stages, a person may have severe and chronic headaches. They’ll also experience pain in the nerves, joints, and bones. The head may additionally grow and become misshapen. This can be avoided if Paget’s is caught early and managed.
7. Pendred syndrome
Pendred syndrome is normally diagnosed during childhood. It’s passed down in the family and impacts the thyroid, balance, and hearing. In some cases, the thyroid grows into a goiter. When diagnosed early, parents and later the adult can take precautions to reduce the progression of hearing loss. These include:
- Preventing head trauma
- Not participating in contact sports
- Not changing altitude quickly (by flying or going scuba diving)
- Wearing a helmet when engaged in risky behavior like bike or horse riding
A person with this disorder experiences a profound hardening of the delicate bones in the inner ear. Once hardened, they can’t vibrate to conduct sound. A hearing test can catch this disorder early. Doctors can treat this condition, and in some cases, reverse it if they find it soon enough.
9. Exposure to ototoxic chemicals
If you work around dangerous chemicals and cleaners such as those found on a construction site, they could be slowly damaging your hearing. A hearing test could offer you one of the first signs that you need to take additional precautions to protect your health.
Chemicals that are ototoxic may also be doing damage to your skin, lungs, or heart. But the ear offers you an early detection system.
10. Sensorineural hearing loss
This is the kind of hearing loss that we associate with aging, but in reality, it’s usually caused by exposure to loud noise. You’re never too young to start getting regular hearing tests. Sensorineural hearing loss can’t be reversed with current science. But when identified early, hearing specialists can offer options to slow progression and help you hear better.
If it’s been a while since you had a hearing test, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert.