Hearing Health Blog

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that you are twice as likely to struggle with hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That might surprise those of you who immediately 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 below the age of 44. Some form of hearing loss most likely impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

The point is that diabetes is just one of several ailments that can cost a person their hearing. Getting old is a considerable aspect both in sickness and hearing loss but what is the link between these disorders and ear health? Give some thought to some diseases that can lead to hearing loss.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people with diabetes have a higher chance of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected to hearing loss, but the clinical research 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.

While there are some theories, researchers still don’t know why this happens. It is feasible 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 reasonable assumption.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. 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 have this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss among American young people.

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

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella name that covers conditions that involve the heart or blood vessels. Some typical diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is generally associated with cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is subject to harm. Injury to the inner ear leads to 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. However, this connection might be a coincidence. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure.

Toxins that build up in the blood as a result of kidney failure might also be the culprit, theoretically. The connection that the nerves have with the brain may be closed off due to damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

The link between loss of hearing and dementia goes both ways. A person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive impairment. Dementia occurs due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. Difficulty hearing can hasten that process.

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

Mumps

Early in life the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The reduction in hearing could be only in one ear or it may impact 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

For most individuals, the random ear infection is not much of a risk because treatment gets rid of it. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from constantly recurring ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough energy to send 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 illnesses that can lead to 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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