Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you are a person that associates hearing loss with growing old or noise damage, this may surprise you. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were below the age of 44. Evidence reveals that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease likely have some form on hearing loss.

A person’s hearing can be impaired by quite a few diseases other than diabetes. Besides the obvious aspect of the aging process, what is the link between these illnesses and hearing loss? Give some thought to some diseases that can lead to hearing loss.

Diabetes

What the link is between diabetes and hearing loss is unclear but clinical research appears to suggest there is one. A condition that suggests 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.

Even though there are some theories, researchers still don’t understand why this occurs. It is feasible that high glucose levels could cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. Diabetes is known to impact circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes hearing loss. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain swell up and that defines meningitis. Studies show that 30 percent of people who develop this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. Among young people in America, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

Meningitis has the potential to injure the delicate nerves which allow the inner ear to send signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Age related hearing loss is commonly linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is subject to harm. When there is an alteration of the blood flow, it may not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and injury to the inner ear then leads to loss of hearing.

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. Kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Toxins that build up in the blood as a result of kidney failure could also be the culprit, theoretically. The connection that the nerves have with the brain may be closed off due to damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

The connection between hearing loss and dementia goes both ways. A person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increased by cognitive deterioration. Dementia occurs because of brain atrophy and shrinkage. 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 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 may affect both ears or only one side. The reason why this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. It’s the part of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The good news is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who has the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of people, the random ear infection is not very risky as treatment clears it up. For some, however, repeated infections can wear out the tiny pieces that are necessary for hearing like the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This kind of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough energy, so no messages are transmitted to the brain. 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 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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