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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. If you are somebody that associates hearing loss with growing old or noise trauma, this may surprise you. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Evidence shows that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease probably have some form on hearing loss.

The main point is that diabetes is just one of several diseases that can cost a person their hearing. Getting old is a major aspect both in disease and hearing loss but what is the connection between these conditions and ear health? These illnesses that lead to loss of hearing should be considered.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people with diabetes have a higher occurrence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is related to hearing loss, but the clinical evidence does point in that direction. A condition that suggests 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.

Even though there are some theories, researchers still don’t know why this takes place. It is feasible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear might be triggered by high glucose levels. That’s a reasonable assumption since diabetes is known to affect circulation.

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 partially or completely. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss among American young people.

Meningitis has the potential to damage the delicate nerves that allow the inner ear to send signals to the brain. The brain has no method to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Normally, cardiovascular diseases tend to be associated with age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is vulnerable to injury. When there is a change in blood flow, it might not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and damage 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 might be a coincidence. Kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Another hypothesis is that the toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure might be the culprit. The connection that the nerves have with the brain could be closed off because of damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

Dementia and hearing loss have a two way effect on each other. There is the indication that cognitive impairment increases a person’s risk of getting conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. Trouble hearing can hasten that process.

The flip side of the coin is true, as well. As injury 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. The decrease in hearing might be only in one ear or it may affect both ears. The reason why this happens is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. It’s the component of the ear that sends messages to the brain. The good news is mumps is pretty rare these days 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 much of a risk for the majority of people. For some, though, repeated infections can wear out the tiny components 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 energy to deliver messages to the brain it’s called conductive hearing loss. Infections can also lead to 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 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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