Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that you are twice as likely to struggle with hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is unexpected for people who view hearing loss as a condition associated with aging or noise trauma. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and almost 500,000 of them were below the age of 44. Evidence shows that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease likely have some form on hearing loss.

The thing is that diabetes is just one in many illnesses that can cost a person their hearing. Apart from the obvious aspect of aging, what is the relationship between these diseases and hearing loss? These diseases that cause loss of hearing should be considered.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is not clear but clinical research seems to indicate there is one. A condition that indicates 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 researchers don’t have a conclusive answer as to why this takes place, there are some theories. It is feasible that high glucose levels may 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. 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.

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

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella name that relates to conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Commonly, cardiovascular diseases tend to be linked to age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is subject to damage. Damage 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 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 conditions associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

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

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia goes both ways. A person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increased by cognitive impairment. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

The other side of the coin is true, also. 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. Hearing loss may affect both ears or only one side. The reason that this happens is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. It’s the component of the ear that sends messages to the brain. The good thing is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. 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 very risky for most people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from constantly recurring ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough energy to send signals to the brain it’s called conductive hearing loss. Infections can also lead to a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Prevention is the key to avoiding many of the illnesses 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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