HEARING TIPS

Diabetes & Other Health Conditions That Can Cause Hearing Loss

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show 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 associate hearing loss with getting old or noise trauma. Nearly 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were below the age of 44. Evidence reveals that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease probably suffer from some form on hearing loss.

The point is that diabetes is just one in many conditions which can cost a person their hearing. Besides the obvious aspect of aging, what is the connection between these conditions and hearing loss? These conditions that lead to hearing loss should be considered.

Diabetes

What the link is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain 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.

Even though there are some theories, researchers still don’t know why this occurs. It is feasible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be triggered by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to affect circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, usually due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people who have this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss among the American youth.

Meningitis has the potential to injure the fragile nerves that permit the inner ear to send signals to the brain. The brain has no means to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that covers conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these well-known diseases:

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

Age related hearing loss is commonly linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is vulnerable to damage. 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 hearing loss.

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. It is possible that this connection is a coincidence, though. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure.

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

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia is a two-way street. There is the indication that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s chances of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia comes about due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

The flip side of the coin is true, as well. A person who develops dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as damage to the brain increases.

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection which can cause children to lose their hearing early in life. The decrease in hearing could be only in one ear or it could impact both ears. The reason 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 good news is mumps is pretty rare these days due to vaccinations. Not everyone who has the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for the majority of people. For some, though, infection after infection take a toll on the tiny pieces that are necessary for hearing like the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force to deliver signals to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Many of the diseases that can lead to 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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