What Is a Comorbidity?
Comorbidity is a medical term which address the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases, or the presence of one or more additional disorders occurring simultaneously with a primary disorder.
Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States, after heart disease and arthritis. Hearing loss is an invisible condition, but if left untreated it could affect other areas of your health. At the same time, other medical conditions may lead to or contribute to hearing loss.
Heart disease is the most common medical condition in the US. A healthy cardiovascular system provides the body with an adequate supply of blood flow. Our auditory system relies on a healthy blood flow to ensure it is functioning properly. The inner ear environment is quite sensitive, and the presence of cardiovascular or cerebrovascular conditions could lead to hearing loss. If the hair cells of the inner ear do not receive an adequate supply of blood flow, hearing could be compromised. High blood pressure, another cardiovascular condition, has been linked to hearing loss, due to constriction of blood vessels.
Dementia has been linked to hearing loss, revealed by studies conducted at Johns Hopkins University. In this study, 639 test subjects had their hearing abilities and cognitive abilities monitored over the course of 12 to 18 years. In this time, researchers found a correlation between untreated hearing loss and a heavier cognitive load, which has been linked to the development of dementia. At the same time, studies from Japan in 2011 found that people who treated hearing loss with the use of hearing aids consistently scored higher on cognitive ability tests. As such, it has been determined that treating hearing loss with hearing aids has the potential to reduce risk for dementia.
Cancer Treatment & Medication
Certain classes of medication have been found to be ototoxic (poisonous to the ear). Chemotherapy, used to fight cancer, often involves using drugs that are ototoxic. There are other drugs, such as aminoglycoside antibiotics, which are used to treat meningitis and other bacterial infections, that could pose a risk to hearing. In these circumstances, if you notice changes in your hearing while undergoing treatment or medication for unrelated conditions, notify your physician immediately. Many of these drugs are life-savers, but there may be other options for you if you notify your physician of changes in your hearing. Currently, researchers at Stanford University are developing antibiotics that eliminate the ototoxic elements. We must note that you should not discontinue taking your medications if you notice changes in your hearing; again, it is important to consult with your physician.
Our balance system is located in the same place as our auditory system. As such, it is no surprise that hearing and balance are linked. Our sense of hearing helps us to locate ourselves in our environment and identify where sounds are coming from – whether it is behind us or the side. Studies have found that people with untreated hearing loss experience falls, accidents, and hospitalization at higher rates than people who treat their hearing loss with the use of hearing aids.
Untreated hearing loss has been known to isolate people from their loved ones and their passions. Hearing loss makes people less likely to socialize and participate in the activities they love. This withdrawal eventually leads to a feeling of social isolation, and as such, a higher rate of depression. At the same time, untreated hearing loss has been linked to increased levels of stress and anxiety, as people are avoidant of social interactions due to difficulties with speech recognition. Treating hearing loss with hearing aids helps to reconnect people and thus lessen the risk for anxiety, stress, and depression.