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Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. That might surprise those of you who automatically connect hearing loss with growing old or noise trauma. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and nearly 500,000 of them were under 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 point is that diabetes is just one of several diseases that can cost a person their hearing. Besides the apparent aspect of aging, what is the link between these diseases and hearing loss? These conditions that cause loss of hearing should be taken into consideration.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people who have diabetes have a higher chance of hearing loss or even if diabetes is related to hearing loss, but the clinical research does point in that direction. People with prediabetes, a condition that implies they could develop type 2 diabetes, tend to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than those with normal blood sugar levels.

While there are some theories, researchers still don’t understand why this takes place. It is possible that high glucose levels could cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. Diabetes is known to influence circulation, so that is a realistic assumption.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, commonly due to infection. 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 cause of hearing loss in the American youth.

The delicate nerves which send signals to the inner ear are potentially damaged by meningitis. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that relates to ailments that affect the heart or blood vessels. Some normal diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is usually linked to cardiovascular diseases. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. 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 with this condition also had an increased risk of hearing loss. A separate study found that chance to be as high as 43 percent. It is possible that this relationship is a coincidence, though. Kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

Another possibility is that the toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure could be the culprit. These toxins could 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 impairment. Dementia occurs due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. Trouble hearing can accelerate that process.

The other side of the coin is true, also. As injury to the brain increases someone who has dementia will have 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 affect both ears or only one side. 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 positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are relatively rare at present. Not everyone will suffer from loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for the majority of people. For some, though, repeated infections take a toll on the tiny pieces that are needed for hearing like the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This kind of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough energy, so no messages are transmitted to the brain. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Prevention is the key to avoiding many of the diseases that can cause you to lose hearing. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and regular sleep habits really help with protecting your ear health throughout your life. You should also get regular hearing exams to make sure your ears stay healthy.