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Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. This statistic is unexpected for people who picture hearing loss as a problem associated with getting old or noise damage. Nearly 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were below the age of 44. Some form of hearing loss most likely affects at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

The thing is that diabetes is just one of several diseases that can cost a person their hearing. The aging process is a major aspect both in disease and loss of hearing but what is the relationship between these conditions 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 not clear but clinical evidence appears to indicate there is one. A condition that suggests a person might 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 possible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be triggered by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to impact circulation, so that is a realistic assumption.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain swell up and that defines meningitis. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing in part or in full if they develop this condition. Among the American youth, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the fragile nerves that permit the inner ear to send signals to the brain. The brain has no means to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella label that covers conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these well-known diseases:

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

Usually, cardiovascular diseases tend to be associated with age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is vulnerable to injury. When there is an alteration of the blood flow, it may not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and damage to the inner ear then leads to hearing loss.

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 may be a coincidence. There are lots of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure.

Another theory is that the toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure could 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 hearing loss and dementia is a two-way street. A person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive deterioration. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. Trouble hearing can accelerate that process.

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

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection which can cause children to lose their hearing early in life. The reduction in hearing could be only in one ear or it might affect both ears. The reason this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. It’s the component of the ear that sends signals to the brain. 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

Treatment gets rid of the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for the majority of people. For some, however, repeated infections take a toll on the tiny components that are needed for hearing like the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This type of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force, so no signals are transmitted to the brain. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

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