Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. That might surprise those of you who immediately associate hearing loss with getting old or noise trauma. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and nearly 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Some form of hearing loss probably affects at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

The main point is that diabetes is only one of several ailments that can cost a person their hearing. Aging is a significant factor both in illness and loss of hearing but what is the connection between these conditions and ear health? These conditions that cause loss of hearing should be taken into consideration.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is not clear but clinical research 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 researchers don’t have a conclusive answer as to why this happens, there are some theories. It is possible that high glucose levels might cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

Meningitis

Loss of hearing is a symptom of this infectious disease. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain become inflamed and that defines meningitis. Studies show that 30 percent of people who have this condition will also lose their hearing, either partially or completely. Among young people in America, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the delicate nerves that permit the inner ear to forward signals to the brain. The brain has no method to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Typically, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be associated with age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is susceptible to harm. When there is a change in blood flow, it might 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. However, this connection could be a coincidence. Kidney disease and other ailments involving high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

Another possibility is that the toxins that build-up in the blood as a result of kidney failure may 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. A person’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increased by cognitive impairment. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. Difficulty hearing can hasten that process.

The other side of the coin is true, also. Someone who has dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as injury to the brain increases.

Mumps

At an early age the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The reduction in hearing may be only in one ear or it may affect both ears. The reason why this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Messages are sent to the brain by this part of the ear. The good thing is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who has the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the random ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for most people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by repeated ear infections. This kind of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force, so no signals are transmitted to the brain. Infections can also lead to a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Prevention is the key to steering clear of many of the illnesses that can cause you to lose hearing. Throughout your life protecting your hearing will be possible if you exercise regularly, get the right amount of sleep, and have a healthy diet. You should also get regular hearing exams to make sure your ears stay healthy.

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