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. This statistic is surprising for those who think of 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. Some form of hearing loss most likely impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

The point is that diabetes is just one in many diseases that can cost a person their hearing. Other than the obvious aspect of the aging process, what is the link between these diseases and hearing loss? Consider some illnesses that can lead to hearing loss.

Diabetes

It is not clear why people who have 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 suggests a person could 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 takes place. It is feasible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be triggered by high glucose levels. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to affect 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, usually due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people who develop this condition will also lose their hearing, either partially or completely. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss in American young people.

The fragile nerves which send signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. The brain has no way to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Ailments that affect the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Typically, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be associated with age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is vulnerable to injury. Damage to the inner ear causes hearing loss when there is a change in blood flow and it doesn’t get 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. There are lots of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure.

Toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure could also be responsible, theoretically. 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 the indication that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s chances of getting conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia happens because of brain atrophy and shrinkage. Trouble hearing can hasten that process.

It also works the other way around. As damage to the brain increases someone who has dementia will have a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

At an early age the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. Loss of hearing might impact both ears or only one side. The reason for this is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. Messages are sent to the brain by this part of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are fairly rare nowadays. Not everyone will experience loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

For most individuals, the occasional ear infection is not very risky as treatment clears it up. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by constantly recurring ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force 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.

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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