Despite the obvious physical differences between men and women, both share many of the same health concerns. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, more than 46 million Americans report having some degree of hearing loss. Even though men are twice as likely to experience hearing loss as women, its ties to chronic diseases, medical conditions, and physical changes can be unique for women.
Vanessa Ewert, AuD, of Bluegrass Hearing Clinic states, “Hearing loss is something, as women, we need to talk about more often. We are bombarded with information about heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes, but most people are unaware hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in adults. It is what we refer to as a hidden disability, which means it is not visible. The more we discuss these health problems, which are very treatable, the better we can improve our overall health.”
Top Health Concerns for Women:
1. Heart Disease
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women. Your hearing health may be an indicator of impending cardiovascular problems. Researchers at Medical College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, found a significant association between low frequency hearing loss and cardiovascular disease and its risk factors. It is recommended that patients diagnosed with low frequency hearing loss be regarded as “at risk for cardiovascular events” and referred to the appropriate medical professionals.
Certain cancers of the ear, brain, breast, lung, and kidney can lead to hearing loss. Certain medications used in cancer treatment, especially cisplatin chemotherapy, can also cause tinnitus and hearing loss. It is recommended that patients have a baseline hearing evaluation before they begin treatment with any ototoxic drugs. Patients currently undergoing treatment for cancer should be monitored regularly and instructed to report any changes in hearing.
Patients with osteoporosis have a greater risk of developing sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL). Studies have found links to osteoporosis and gradual hearing loss, especially as it relates to the demineralization of the three bones of the middle ear. Close attention should be paid to the hearing health of patients diagnosed with osteoporosis. Most cases of SSNHL can be resolved if treated within two-to-four weeks after hearing loss occurs.
According to Mental Health America, women experience depression at twice the rate of men due to developmental, genetic, hormonal, and societal issues. Research shows that women with hearing loss are twice as likely to develop depression than those without hearing loss. Fortunately, those who seek treatment for their hearing loss often see significant improvements in their depression. Hearing aid users report an enhanced quality of life, including in relationships at home, feelings about themselves, and life overall.
5. Autoimmune Diseases
According to information from the US Department of Health and Human Services, more women than men develop autoimmune diseases. Examples that have been associated with hearing loss include diabetes, anemia, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Approximately 11 percent of women in the United States have diabetes. Diabetics are twice as likely to develop hearing loss, possibly because high blood glucose levels damage the tiny blood vessel of the inner ear.
A recent study by researchers at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine found anemic individuals were twice as likely to develop sensorineural hearing loss and combined sensorineural and conductive hearing loss than those without the blood disorder.
8. Rheumatoid Arthritis
This systemic inflammatory disease affects a higher percentage of women than men. In recent studies, it was concluded that those with RA are more likely to develop hearing loss. Researchers are still trying to understand the relationship between the two.
A small number of women experience SSNHL during pregnancy. Research shows that this is caused by changes in the cardiovascular, hematological, and endocrine system, affecting the circulation in the cochlea. The condition is rare and most women regain their hearing after delivery.
A decrease in estrogen levels plays a role in hearing loss among menopausal women. Women who do not take hormone replacement therapy are more likely to have poorer hearing than those who do.