Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

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

A person’s hearing can be damaged by quite a few diseases besides diabetes. Apart from the apparent factor of the aging process, what is the link between these diseases and hearing loss? These diseases that cause hearing loss should be considered.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people with diabetes have a higher occurrence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is related to hearing loss, but the clinical research does point in that direction. A condition that indicates a person may 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 takes place, 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 reasonable assumption since diabetes is known to affect circulation.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, normally due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing in part or in full if they develop this condition. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss in the American youth.

The delicate nerves that relay signals to the inner ear are potentially damaged by meningitis. Without these signals, the brain has no way of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that relates to ailments that impact the heart or blood vessels. Some typical diseases in this category include:

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

Typically, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be associated with age-related hearing loss. Injury can easily happen to the inner ear. When there is an alteration of the blood flow, it may 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 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 involving high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

Toxins that build up in the blood due to kidney failure might also be the culprit, theoretically. 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. There is the indication that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. Difficulty hearing can accelerate that process.

It also works the other way around. A person 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 decrease in hearing might be only on one side or it could affect both ears. The reason why this happens is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. It’s the part of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are fairly rare today. Not everyone will suffer from hearing loss if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the occasional ear infection so it’s not very risky for the majority of people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from repeated ear infections. When sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough force to deliver messages to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Many of the illnesses that can lead to hearing loss can be avoided by prevention. 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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