Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you are a person that associates hearing loss with getting old or noise trauma, this might surprise you. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Evidence shows that 250,000 of those younger people with the disease probably suffer from some form on hearing loss.

The thing is that diabetes is just one of several diseases which can cost a person their hearing. The aging process is a significant factor both in disease and hearing loss but what is the connection between these disorders and ear health? These diseases that cause hearing loss should be taken into consideration.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is not clear but clinical evidence seems to suggest there is one. A condition that suggests a person could develop type 2 diabetes, called prediabetes, causes people to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than people who don’t have it.

While scientists don’t have a definitive reason as to why this takes place, there are some theories. It is feasible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be triggered by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to impact circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.

Meningitis

Loss of hearing is a symptom of this infectious disease. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain swell up and that defines meningitis. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing in part or in full if they develop this condition. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss among the American youth.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the delicate nerves which allow the inner ear to send signals to the brain. The brain has no way to interpret sound if it doesn’t get these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. This category contains these well-known diseases:

  • Heart failure
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Normally, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be associated with age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is vulnerable to damage. When there is a change in blood flow, it may not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and damage to the inner ear then leads to loss of hearing.

Chronic Kidney Disease

A 2012 study published in The Laryngoscope found that people with this condition also had an increased risk of hearing loss. A separate study found that chance to be as high as 43 percent. It is possible that this connection is a coincidence, though. Kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

Another hypothesis is that the toxins that build-up in the blood due to kidney failure could be the cause. These toxins could damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

Dementia and hearing loss have a two way effect on each other. There is the indication that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s risk of getting conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia happens because of brain atrophy and shrinkage. Difficulty hearing can accelerate that process.

The flip side of the coin is true, also. Somebody who develops dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as damage to the brain increases.

Mumps

Early in life the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The reduction in hearing may be only on one side or it may impact both ears. The reason for this is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. Signals are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. The good thing is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who gets the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of individuals, the random ear infection is not very risky since treatment clears it up. For some, however, infection after infection take a toll on the tiny pieces that are necessary for hearing such as the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. When sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough energy to deliver signals to the brain it’s called conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Prevention is the key to avoiding many of the illnesses that can cause you to lose hearing. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and regular sleep habits really help with protecting your ear health throughout your life. You should also get regular hearing exams to make sure your ears stay healthy.

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