Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies reveal that you are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is unexpected for those who view 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 below the age of 44. Some type of hearing loss likely impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

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

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain but clinical research appears to indicate there is one. A condition that indicates a person may develop type 2 diabetes, called prediabetes, causes people to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than people who don’t have it.

While scientists don’t have a definitive reason as to why this happens, there are some theories. It is possible 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 affect circulation.

Meningitis

Loss of hearing is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, commonly due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing partially or completely if they get this condition. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss in American young people.

Meningitis has the potential to damage the delicate nerves that permit the inner ear to forward signals to the brain. The brain has no way to interpret sound if it doesn’t get these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella name that covers ailments that involve the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these well-known diseases:

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

Usually, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be associated with age-related hearing loss. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. 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 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 feasible that this connection is a coincidence, though. Kidney disease and other conditions 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 cause. The connection that the nerves have with the brain might be closed off because of damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

The link between hearing loss and dementia goes both ways. There is the indication that cognitive impairment increases a person’s risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. Trouble hearing can accelerate that process.

It also works the other way around. As injury to the brain increases a person who has dementia will have 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. The decrease in hearing could be only on one side or it might impact both ears. The reason why this happens is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Messages are sent to the brain by this part of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are relatively rare today. Not everyone who gets the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the occasional ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. However, the little bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by repeated ear infections. This type of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough energy, so no signals are transmitted to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Many of the illnesses that can cause hearing loss can be avoided by prevention. Throughout your life protecting your hearing will be achievable 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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