The Importance of Your Health History in Audiology: Unraveling the Connection Between Co-Morbidities and Hearing Loss

09/26/2023 | Hearing Loss, Patient Resources

Hearing loss affects millions of people worldwide, and it’s not just a condition that comes with age. Surprisingly, your overall health can play a significant role in your hearing. That’s why audiology clinics want to know your health history and any co-morbidities you may have.

Almost weekly, a new patient will ask us why they have to fill out our case history. In this blog, we’ll delve into the reasons why your health history matters and how it’s linked to hearing loss.

What’s in Your Health History?

Before we explore the connection between health and hearing, let’s understand what’s typically included in your health history:

1. Medical Conditions:

  • Chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
  • Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  •  Infections like meningitis or chronic ear infections.
  • Thyroid problems.

2. Medications:

  • Certain medications can harm your hearing, so your audiologist needs to know what you’re taking.

3. Lifestyle Factors:

  • Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to hearing loss.
  • Exposure to loud noises at work or during recreational activities.

4. Family History:

  • Genetic factors may predispose you to hearing problems.

The Connection Between Health and Hearing Loss

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s dive into why your health history matters when it comes to hearing:

1. Medications and Hearing Loss:

Certain medications, known as ototoxic drugs, can harm your hearing. These drugs are used to treat various conditions, including cancer, infections, and heart problems. By knowing your medication history, we can better assess your risk and recommend alternatives or precautions if necessary.

2. Chronic Illnesses:

Conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure can affect the blood flow to your ears, leading to hearing problems. Regular check-ups and managing these conditions can help preserve your hearing.

3. Autoimmune Diseases:

Autoimmune disorders can trigger inflammation throughout your body, which may include the delicate structures in your ears. Audiologists need to be aware of these conditions to provide appropriate care and treatment.

4. Infections:

Infections like meningitis can damage the inner ear, resulting in permanent hearing loss. A history of such infections is crucial for us to understand the potential impact on your hearing abilities.

5. Lifestyle Factors:

Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are well-known contributors to hearing loss. Audiologists can offer guidance on reducing these risk factors and help you maintain healthier hearing.

6. Noise Exposure:

If you’ve been exposed to loud noises at work or during recreational activities, it can take a toll on your hearing. This information helps audiologists assess your risk and recommend protective measures or interventions.

7. Family History:

Genetics can play a role in hearing loss. If there’s a family history of hearing problems, your audiologist will take this into account when evaluating your hearing health.

How Your Health History Aids Diagnosis and Treatment

Understanding your health history allows audiologists to:

1. Identify Risk Factors:

By assessing your health history, audiologists can pinpoint potential risk factors for hearing loss. This enables them to tailor their evaluation and recommendations to your specific needs.

2. Determine the Cause:

Hearing loss can have various causes, some of which may be related to your health history. Knowing this information helps audiologists identify the root cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

3. Personalize Treatment:

No two individuals are alike. Your health history helps audiologists create a personalized treatment plan that considers your unique circumstances and co-morbidities.

4. Monitor Progress:

Audiologists may need to monitor your hearing over time, especially if your health history includes conditions or medications that can affect it. Regular check-ups help ensure that your treatment remains effective.

Your health history is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to your hearing health. It provides crucial insights that enable us to better understand your unique situation and offer the most effective care and treatment. So, when your audiology clinic asks for your health history, know that they’re doing it to help you hear better and live a fuller life.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Dr. Person Au.D, CCC-A

Dr. Person has been a private practice owner since 2005. She currently specializes in hearing aids, tinnitus management and vestibular diagnostics, while operating in an unbundled service delivery model. Dr. Person is the host of The Unbundled Audiologist podcast. She serves as the incoming VP of Audiology for ISHA for a three year term. Her greatest accomplishment is creating a life where she can serve others while still spending quality time with her husband and two small children.