The impact of untreated hearing loss on your health

Untreated hearing loss, leads to a wide range of adverse effects on one's health and well-being. 

The impact of untreated hearing loss on your health

by Dr. Kevin Ivory

Did you know that the third most prevalent medical condition in the US is hearing loss? Since it is an invisible disorder, most people prefer not to think about hearing loss or even mention it. Untreated hearing loss, however, leads to a wide range of adverse effects on one's health and well-being. 

What is a Comorbidity?

Comorbidity is a medical term that indicates one or more secondary disorders that come alongside a primary illness. The list of hearing loss-related comorbidities is long, and that's why it is so important to treat it early.

Here are some of the most common disorders that either cause or are caused by hearing loss. 

Cardiovascular Disease

Believe it or not, there is a strong correlation between hearing loss and heart disease. Good blood flow is essential in the hearing process, as parts of your inner ear absorb sound waves, convert them into neural signals, and process them in your brain's auditory cortex. The environment of the inner ear is a complicated system that requires sufficient blood flow to work efficiently. Cardiovascular system issues may affect blood flow to that region and could have adverse effects on your hearing.

Balance issues

Our hearing is crucial to our sense of balance. Our sense of equilibrium and connection to gravity and spatial perception is distorted with damage to our hearing. Consequently, connections between untreated hearing loss and an increased rate of falls and other injuries have been identified. 

Johns Hopkins University published a study in 2012 that found a link between untreated hearing loss and falls: the likelihood of falling rises by 1.4-fold with every 10 decibels of hearing loss. It comes as no surprise, then, that an elevated rate of hospitalization is often associated with untreated hearing loss.


There has been a large number of studies recently on hearing loss and its connection with dementia. It will come as no surprise to discover that hearing loss has a detrimental effect on our communication and contributes to a gradual withdrawal from social activities. This lack of social contact provides the perfect conditions for the onset of cognitive impairment and dementia.

In 2011, Frank Lin at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published one of the most influential research pieces linking dementia with hearing loss. More than 600 individuals without dementia engaged in his study over a period of 12 years.

Its findings found that the risk of dementia was nearly double in patients with mild hearing loss, triple in patients with moderate hearing loss, and five-fold in patients with severe hearing loss. Dr. Lin and his colleagues concluded that the link between hearing loss and dementia was meaningful.


People with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss than those without, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In participants with diabetes, researchers noticed a higher incidence of hearing loss after examining hearing test results given to a representative sample of American adults. The tests measured both ears' ability to comprehend high, medium, and low frequencies. Across all frequency bands, particularly in the higher frequency range, the relationship between hearing loss and diabetes was evident.

Experts, therefore, recommend that those with diabetes undergo a hearing test alongside their diabetes treatment program.


The psychological burden of hearing loss can be much more substantial than you might think. Not only are you unable to connect to your friends and family, but you also miss out on the sounds you enjoy most, whether it is the birds chirping outside your house, your grandchildren laughing in the backyard, or the subtle nuances of your favorite song. Social isolation and the anxiety associated with hearing loss can easily lead to depression.

Thyroid disease

About 20 million Americans have a thyroid disorder, the symptoms of which can include changes in weight, headaches, chronic fatigue, and palpitations. Specific forms of thyroid disease may also impair hearing. These include Pendred Syndrome, Grave's Disease, and Hashimoto's Disease.

Certain medicines

A variety of medicines are "ototoxic," meaning that they can be harmful to the ear. These include pain killers and antibiotics, as well as medications used in the treatment of cancer. Although these drugs also treat severe medical problems, one potential side effect is losing your hearing. 

For instance, a popular anticancer drug used in chemotherapy, cisplatin, has an ototoxicity of 69 percent at a dose of fewer than 200 milligrams. Although rare, ototoxic drugs can destroy your inner ear's hair cells and may cause permanent sensorineural hearing loss. 

Hearing loss needs to be treated early.

Most of us wait an average of seven years to treat our hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss during those seven years could lead to various adverse effects on your physical and mental health. By scheduling a hearing test, you are taking the first step towards improving all aspects of your health. 

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Kevin H. Ivory
Audiologist & University Instructor
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Dr. Kevin Ivory, Au.D., CCC-A received his Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then went on to earn his Doctor of Audiology degree from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, one of the top 10 audiology residential programs in the country.

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