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. If you are a person that associates hearing loss with getting old or noise trauma, this may surprise you. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and nearly 500,000 of them were below the age of 44. Some kind of hearing loss most likely impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

The thing is that diabetes is only one of several ailments which can cost a person their hearing. Apart from the obvious factor of aging, what is the connection between these conditions and hearing loss? These illnesses that lead to loss of hearing should be considered.

Diabetes

It is uncertain why people who have diabetes have a higher incidence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected to hearing loss, but the clinical evidence does point in that direction. A condition that suggests a person might 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 occurs, there are some theories. It is feasible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be caused by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to impact circulation, so that is a realistic assumption.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is swelling of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, commonly due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing partially or completely if they develop this condition. Among young people in America, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

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

Cardiovascular Disease

Conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. Some common diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is generally linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is vulnerable to harm. Injury to the inner ear causes hearing loss when there is a change in blood flow and it doesn’t receive the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to thrive.

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 might be a coincidence. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments connected with high blood pressure.

Toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure might also be responsible, theoretically. The connection that the nerves have with the brain might be closed off due to damage to the ear by these toxins.

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.

It also works the other way around. As damage to the brain increases a person who has dementia will have 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 when they’re very young. The reduction in hearing might be only on one side or it could affect both ears. The reason this happens is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Messages are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are fairly rare today. Not everyone will experience loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the occasional ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for the majority of people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from repeated ear infections. This form of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough energy, so no signals are sent to the brain. Infections can also lead to a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Prevention is the key to avoiding many of the diseases that can cost you your 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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