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 could surprise those of you who automatically associate hearing loss with aging or noise trauma. 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 point is that diabetes is just one of several diseases that can cost a person their hearing. Growing old is a considerable factor both in illness and hearing loss but what is the relationship between these disorders and ear health? Consider some illnesses that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is unclear but clinical research appears to indicate 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 there are some theories, researchers still don’t understand why this takes place. It is feasible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear might be triggered by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to affect circulation, so that is a realistic assumption.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. 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 partially or completely if they get this condition. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss among American young people.

The fragile nerves which send signals to the inner ear are potentially damaged by meningitis. The brain has no way to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that relates to ailments that affect the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these well-known diseases:

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

Usually, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be linked to age-related hearing loss. Injury can easily happen to the inner ear. 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 might be a coincidence. Kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

Another theory is that the toxins that build-up in the blood due to kidney failure could be the cause. The connection that the nerves have with the brain might be closed off because of damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

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

It also works the other way around. As injury to the brain increases someone who has dementia will show a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection which can cause children to lose their hearing early in life. The reduction in hearing might be only on one side or it may impact both ears. The reason this happens is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Signals are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. The good news is mumps is pretty rare these days due to vaccinations. Not everyone will suffer from loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of people, the random ear infection is not much of a risk since treatment clears it up. However, the small 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 messages are sent to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Prevention is the key to steering clear of many of the illnesses that can cause you to lose hearing. 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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