Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that you are twice as likely to have hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you are a person that associates hearing loss with getting old or noise damage, this may surprise you. Almost 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were below the age of 44. Some kind of hearing loss most likely affects at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

The main point is that diabetes is just one of several conditions that can cost a person their hearing. Growing old is a major factor both in sickness and loss of hearing but what is the link between these conditions and ear health? These conditions that cause hearing loss should be considered.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is not clear but clinical evidence seems to indicate there is one. 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 happens, there are some theories. It is feasible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear could be triggered by high glucose levels. That’s a reasonable assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

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, normally due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people who have this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. 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 send signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella label that relates to conditions that involve the heart or blood vessels. Some normal diseases in this category include:

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

Normally, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be linked to age-related hearing loss. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. When there is a change in blood flow, it may not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and injury 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 might be a coincidence. Kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

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

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia is a two-way street. A person’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive impairment. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. Difficulty hearing can accelerate that process.

The flip side of the coin is true, also. As damage to the brain increases a person who has dementia will show a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

Early in life the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The reduction in hearing could be only on one side or it might impact both ears. The reason this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. It’s the part of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The good news is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone will suffer from loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. However, the little 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. 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. Throughout your life protecting your hearing will be achievable 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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