Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is unexpected for people who think of hearing loss as a condition associated with getting old or noise damage. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Evidence reveals that 250,000 of those younger people with the disease probably suffer from some form on hearing loss.

The point is that diabetes is only one in many illnesses that can cost a person their hearing. Getting old is a significant factor both in disease and hearing loss but what is the connection between these disorders and ear health? These illnesses that cause loss of hearing should be taken into consideration.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain but clinical evidence appears to suggest there is one. People who have prediabetes, a condition that implies they might develop type 2 diabetes, tend to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than those with normal blood sugar levels.

Even though there are some theories, researchers still don’t know why this takes place. It is possible 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

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 in part or in full. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss in American young people.

Meningitis has the potential to damage the fragile nerves that permit the inner ear to send signals to the brain. The brain has no means to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella name that relates to conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels. Some common diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is commonly associated with cardiovascular diseases. 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 damage 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 ailments associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Another theory is that the toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure could be the culprit. The connection that the nerves have with the brain might be closed off because of damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia is a two-way street. There is some evidence that cognitive impairment increases a person’s chances of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

It also works the other way around. As damage 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 that can cause children to lose their hearing when they’re very young. The decrease in hearing might be only on one side or it may affect both ears. The reason this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Messages are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are relatively rare at present. Not everyone who has the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the occasional ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for the majority of people. 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 strength to send messages to the brain it’s known as 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. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and regular sleep habits will go a long way to protecting your ear health throughout your life. You should also get regular hearing exams to make sure your ears stay healthy.

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