Center For Better Hearing - Glens Falls, NY

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that you are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. This statistic is surprising for people who picture hearing loss as a condition associated with aging or noise damage. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and nearly 500,000 of them were below the age of 44. Evidence reveals that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease probably have some form on hearing loss.

The point is that diabetes is only one in many conditions which can cost a person their hearing. The aging process is a considerable factor both in illness and hearing loss but what is the link between these disorders and ear health? These illnesses that cause hearing loss should be considered.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people who have diabetes have a higher incidence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is related to hearing loss, but the clinical research does point in that direction. A condition that indicates a person might 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 conclusive reason as to why this occurs, there are some theories. It is feasible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear could be caused by high glucose levels. 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 become inflamed and that defines meningitis. 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 cause of hearing loss among American young people.

The delicate nerves that send signals to the inner ear are potentially damaged by meningitis. The brain has no means to interpret sound if it doesn’t get these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella label that covers ailments that affect the heart or blood vessels. Some normal diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is generally associated with cardiovascular diseases. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. Damage to the inner ear leads to 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. Kidney disease and other ailments involving high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

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

Dementia

The connection between hearing loss and dementia is a two-way street. A person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increased by cognitive impairment. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. Trouble hearing can hasten that process.

The other side of the coin is true, also. As injury to the brain increases someone who has dementia will show 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. Hearing loss might 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 component of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are pretty rare at present. Not everyone will suffer from hearing loss if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the occasional ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. For some, however, infection after infection take a toll on the tiny components that are required for hearing like the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This type of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough energy, so no signals are transmitted to the brain. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Many of the illnesses that can lead to hearing loss can be avoided by prevention. 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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