Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that you are twice as likely to struggle with hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That might surprise those of you who automatically connect hearing loss with getting old 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 type of hearing loss probably affects at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

The point is that diabetes is only one in many conditions which can cost a person their hearing. The aging process is a significant factor both in disease and hearing loss but what is the connection between these disorders and ear health? These conditions that lead to loss of hearing should be considered.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is unclear but clinical research appears to indicate there is one. People who have prediabetes, a condition that indicates 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 possible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be triggered by high glucose levels. That’s a reasonable assumption since diabetes is known to affect circulation.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. 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 will lose their hearing partially or completely if they get this condition. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss among the American youth.

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

Cardiovascular Disease

Conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. Some common diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is generally associated with cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is subject to injury. Injury 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 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 may be a coincidence. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure.

Another possibility is that the toxins that build-up in the blood as a result of kidney failure might be the culprit. These toxins could damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

The link between hearing loss and dementia goes both ways. A person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive deterioration. 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 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 early in life. Loss of hearing may impact both ears or only one side. The reason why this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Signals are sent to the brain by this part of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are relatively rare nowadays. Not everyone will experience loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

For most people, the occasional ear infection is not much of a risk because treatment clears it up. For some, however, infection after infection take a toll on the tiny components that are needed 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 deliver signals 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 steering clear of many of the diseases that can cost you your hearing. 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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