Audio Life Hearing Center- Knoxville, TN

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you are somebody that associates hearing loss with aging or noise damage, this could surprise you. Almost 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 likely have some form on hearing loss.

The main point is that diabetes is just one in many conditions which can cost a person their hearing. Apart from the obvious factor of aging, what is the link between these illnesses and hearing loss? Give some thought to some illnesses that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

It is uncertain 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. People who have 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 scientists don’t have a conclusive reason as to why this happens, there are some theories. It is possible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be caused by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to impact circulation, so that is a reasonable 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 who develop this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss in American young people.

The fragile nerves that relay signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. Without these signals, the brain has no way of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Age related hearing loss is commonly linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is vulnerable to damage. Damage to the inner ear causes 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. It is feasible that this connection is a coincidence, though. Kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Another theory is that the toxins that collect in the blood due to kidney failure may be to blame. The connection that the nerves have with the brain might be closed off due to damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

Dementia and hearing loss have a two way effect on each other. A person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive impairment. Dementia occurs due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

It also works the other way around. As damage to the brain increases a person who has dementia will show a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

Early in life the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. Hearing loss may impact both ears or only one side. The reason that this happens is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. It’s the part 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 suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. However, the small bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by repeated ear infections. This kind of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force, so no messages are transmitted to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Prevention is the key to avoiding many of the illnesses that can cost you your 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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