Cedar Audiology Associates - Cleveland, OH

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 could surprise those of you who automatically connect hearing loss with growing old or noise damage. Almost 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were under the age of 44. Evidence shows that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease likely have some form on hearing loss.

The thing is that diabetes is just one in many illnesses that can cost a person their hearing. Other than the apparent aspect of the aging process, what is the link between these illnesses and hearing loss? These illnesses that cause loss of hearing should be considered.

Diabetes

What the link is between diabetes and hearing loss is unclear but clinical evidence seems to indicate there is one. A condition that indicates a person may 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 conclusive answer as to why this happens, 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 reasonable assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

Meningitis

Loss of hearing is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, normally 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. Among the American youth, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

The fragile nerves which relay signals to the inner ear are potentially damaged by meningitis. The brain has no means to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. Some normal diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is generally 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 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. It is possible that this relationship is a coincidence, though. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments connected with high blood pressure.

Another hypothesis is that the toxins that build-up in the blood as a result of kidney failure might be the culprit. These toxins may 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 chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive deterioration. 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 a person who has dementia will show a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection that can cause children to lose their hearing early in life. Loss of hearing may affect both ears or only one side. The reason that this happens is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. Messages are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. The good thing is mumps is pretty scarce these days due to vaccinations. Not everyone who gets the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of individuals, the random ear infection is not much of a risk because treatment gets rid of it. However, the little bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from repeated ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force to send messages to the brain it’s called 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 illnesses that can cost you your 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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