Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies reveal that you are twice as likely to have hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you are somebody that associates hearing loss with growing old or noise trauma, this may surprise you. 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 suffer from some form on hearing loss.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by quite a few diseases besides diabetes. Apart from the apparent aspect of aging, what is the relationship between these illnesses and hearing loss? Consider some illnesses that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

It is not clear why people with diabetes have a higher occurrence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected to hearing loss, but the clinical evidence does point in that direction. 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.

Even though there are some theories, researchers still don’t know why this happens. It is possible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear could be caused by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to impact circulation, so that is a realistic assumption.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes hearing loss. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain become inflamed and that defines meningitis. Studies show that 30 percent of people who have this condition will also lose their hearing, either partially or completely. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss among American young people.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the fragile nerves that allow the inner ear to forward signals to the brain. 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”. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Age related hearing loss is normally associated with cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is subject to damage. When there is a change in blood flow, it may not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and damage to the inner ear then leads to hearing loss.

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. It is possible that this relationship is a coincidence, though. There are lots of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments connected with high blood pressure.

Another hypothesis is that the toxins that build-up in the blood as a result of kidney failure may be the culprit. These toxins may 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 some evidence that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia occurs because of brain atrophy and shrinkage. Trouble hearing can hasten that process.

The flip side of the coin is true, also. Someone who develops dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as injury to the brain increases.

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 might impact both ears. The reason for this is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. Signals are sent to the brain by this part of the ear. The good thing is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who has the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the occasional ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. For some, however, infection after infection take a toll on the tiny pieces that are necessary for hearing like the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. When sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough energy to send signals to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

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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