Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is unexpected for those who think of hearing loss as a condition associated with growing old or noise damage. Nearly 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were under the age of 44. Evidence shows that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease probably suffer from some form on hearing loss.

The thing is that diabetes is just one of several illnesses which can cost a person their hearing. The aging process is a major factor both in sickness and hearing loss but what is the connection between these conditions and ear health? Consider some diseases that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

It is uncertain why people with diabetes have a higher occurrence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is related to hearing loss, but the clinical evidence does point in that direction. People with prediabetes, a condition that implies they may develop type 2 diabetes, tend to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than those with normal blood sugar levels.

While there are some theories, scientists still don’t understand why this happens. It is feasible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear might be caused by high glucose levels. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes hearing loss. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, usually 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. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss in the American youth.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the delicate nerves which 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:

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

Commonly, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency 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 with this condition also had an increased risk of hearing loss. A separate study found that chance to be as high as 43 percent. It is possible that this connection is a coincidence, though. 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 due to 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

The connection between hearing loss and dementia is a two-way street. A person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive impairment. Dementia happens because of brain atrophy and shrinkage. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

It also works the other way around. Someone who has dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as damage to the brain increases.

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection which can cause children to lose their hearing when they’re very young. The reduction in hearing could be only on one side or it could impact both ears. 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 portion of the ear. The good news is mumps is pretty scarce nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who gets the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the random ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for most people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by constantly recurring ear infections. This form of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough energy, so no messages are sent to the brain. Infections can also cause 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 really help with 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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