Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is surprising for people who think of hearing loss as a problem associated 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. Evidence shows that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease likely suffer from some form on hearing loss.

The thing is that diabetes is just one in many diseases that can cost a person their hearing. Getting old is a major factor both in illness and loss of hearing but what is the link between these conditions and ear health? Consider some illnesses that can lead to hearing loss.

Diabetes

It is not clear why people with diabetes have a higher occurrence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected to hearing loss, but the clinical research does point in that direction. People with prediabetes, a condition that implies they might develop type 2 diabetes, tend to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than those with normal blood sugar levels.

While researchers don’t have a conclusive reason as to why this takes place, 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 influence circulation.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain swell up and that defines meningitis. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing partially or completely if they develop this condition. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss among the American youth.

The fragile nerves which relay signals to the inner ear are potentially damaged by meningitis. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella name that covers conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Age related hearing loss is normally linked to cardiovascular diseases. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. Injury 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 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 involving 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 responsible, theoretically. These toxins could damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

Dementia and hearing loss have a two way effect on each other. A person’s risk of getting 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, as well. Someone who develops dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as injury to the brain increases.

Mumps

Early in life the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The reduction in hearing might be only on one side or it may affect 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 good news is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who gets the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from constantly recurring ear infections. When sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough energy to deliver signals to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Prevention is the key to steering clear of many of the diseases that can cause you to lose hearing. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and regular sleep habits will go a long way to 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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