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 have hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That might surprise those of you who automatically associate hearing loss with growing old or noise damage. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and almost 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Some type of hearing loss likely affects at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

The point is that diabetes is only one of several ailments that can cost a person their hearing. Apart from the obvious factor of aging, what is the connection between these illnesses and hearing loss? Give some thought to some diseases that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

What the link is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain but clinical research appears to indicate there is one. A condition that indicates a person could develop type 2 diabetes, called prediabetes, causes people to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than people who don’t have it.

While researchers don’t have a definitive reason as to why this takes place, there are some theories. It is possible 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 realistic assumption.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. 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 in part or in full if they get this condition. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss among American young people.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the fragile nerves that allow the inner ear to send signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Age related hearing loss is usually linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is subject to damage. When there is a change in blood flow, it might 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 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 relationship is a coincidence, though. Kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

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

Dementia

The connection between hearing loss and dementia goes both ways. A person’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increased by cognitive deterioration. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

The other side of the coin is true, as well. As injury to the brain increases a person 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. Loss of hearing might affect both ears or only one side. The reason for this is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. Signals are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are relatively rare at present. Not everyone will experience loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the occasional ear infection so it’s not very risky for the majority of people. For some, though, infection after infection can wear out the tiny components that are needed for hearing such as the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This kind of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force, so no signals 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 cause you to lose 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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