Coastal Hearing Aid Center - Encinitas, CA

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is unexpected for people who view hearing loss as a condition associated with getting old or noise damage. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and nearly 500,000 of them were below the age of 44. Evidence shows that 250,000 of those younger people with the disease probably have some form on hearing loss.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by several diseases besides diabetes. The aging process is a considerable factor both in sickness and hearing loss but what is the relationship between these disorders and ear health? These conditions that cause loss of hearing should be taken into consideration.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is unclear but clinical evidence appears to indicate there is one. A condition that suggests 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 scientists don’t have a definitive answer as to why this occurs, there are some theories. It is feasible that high glucose levels might cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain become inflamed and that defines meningitis. 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.

Meningitis has the potential to damage the delicate nerves that permit the inner ear to forward signals to the brain. The brain has no way 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 common diseases:

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

Usually, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be associated with age-related hearing loss. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. Damage to the inner ear causes hearing loss when there is a change in blood flow and it doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to thrive.

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. However, this connection might be a coincidence. Kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

Another theory is that the toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure may be the culprit. These toxins may damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia goes both ways. There is some evidence that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s risk of getting conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia happens due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. Trouble hearing can accelerate that process.

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

Mumps

At an early age the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The reduction in hearing may be only in one ear or it may impact both ears. 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 signals to the brain. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are pretty rare today. Not everyone will suffer from hearing loss if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of individuals, the occasional ear infection is not much of a risk since treatment gets rid of it. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by constantly recurring ear infections. This type of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough energy, so no signals are transmitted to the brain. Infections can also lead to a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Many of the illnesses that can cause hearing loss can be avoided by prevention. 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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