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Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that you are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That may surprise those of you who immediately connect hearing loss 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. Some type of hearing loss likely impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

The point is that diabetes is just one in many illnesses which can cost a person their hearing. Getting old is a major factor both in sickness and hearing loss but what is the connection between these disorders and ear health? Give some thought to some diseases that can lead to hearing loss.

Diabetes

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

While researchers don’t have a conclusive answer as to why this happens, there are some theories. It is possible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be triggered by high glucose levels. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to affect circulation.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes hearing loss. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, usually 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 young people in America, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

Meningitis has the potential to injure the delicate nerves which allow the inner ear to send signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Age related hearing loss is generally associated with cardiovascular diseases. Injury 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 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 feasible that this connection is a coincidence, though. Kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

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

Dementia

Dementia and hearing loss have a two way effect on each other. A person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive deterioration. Dementia happens due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

The flip side of the coin is true, as well. As injury to the brain increases someone who has dementia will have a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection which can cause children to lose their hearing when they’re very young. The decrease in hearing may be only in one ear or it could impact both ears. The reason for this is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. It’s the component of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are relatively rare today. Not everyone will experience hearing loss if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the occasional ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for the majority of people. However, the little bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by repeated ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough energy to send messages to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. Infections can also lead to a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

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 really help with 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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