Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. That may surprise those of you who automatically associate hearing loss with growing old or noise damage. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were below the age of 44. Some form of hearing loss likely impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

The main point is that diabetes is just one in many conditions which can cost a person their hearing. Aging is a major factor both in disease and loss of hearing but what is the relationship between these conditions and ear health? These conditions that lead to loss of hearing should be taken into consideration.

Diabetes

What the link is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain but clinical evidence seems to indicate there is one. People with prediabetes, a condition that implies they may develop type 2 diabetes, tend to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than those with normal blood sugar levels.

Even though there are some theories, researchers still don’t know why this happens. It is possible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear could be caused by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to affect circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.

Meningitis

Loss of hearing is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is swelling of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, usually due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people who develop this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. Among the American youth, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

The fragile nerves which relay signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella name that covers conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Age related hearing loss is generally associated with cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is subject to harm. Damage to the inner ear causes hearing loss when there is a change in blood flow and it doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to thrive.

Chronic Kidney Disease

A 2012 study published in The Laryngoscope found that people have an increased risk of losing their hearing if they have this condition. A separate study found that chance to be as high as 43 percent. However, this connection may be a coincidence. There are lots of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure.

Toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure might also be to blame, theoretically. These toxins could damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia goes both ways. There is some evidence that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s chances of getting conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

The other side of the coin is true, as well. As injury to the brain increases someone who has dementia will have a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

At an early age the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The reduction in hearing might be only in one ear or it may impact both ears. The reason why this happens is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. It’s the component of the ear that sends messages to the brain. The good news is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who has the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the random ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for the majority of people. However, the small bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by repeated ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force to send signals to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. Infections can also lead to a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Many of the illnesses that can cause hearing loss can be avoided by prevention. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and regular sleep habits will go a long way to 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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