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Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that you are twice as likely to have hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That may 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 close to 500,000 of them were below the age of 44. Evidence reveals that 250,000 of those younger people with the disease probably suffer from some form on hearing loss.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by several diseases other than diabetes. Aging is a considerable aspect both in illness and loss of hearing but what is the connection between these disorders and ear health? Give some thought to some illnesses that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

It is not clear why people who have diabetes have a higher occurrence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected to hearing loss, but the clinical evidence does point in that direction. 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 researchers don’t have a definitive answer as to why this takes place, there are some theories. It is possible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear might be triggered by high glucose levels. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. 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 will lose their hearing partially or completely if they get this condition. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss among the American youth.

Meningitis has the potential to damage the delicate nerves which allow the inner ear to forward signals to the brain. The brain has no means to interpret sound if it doesn’t get these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Age related hearing loss is commonly linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is vulnerable to damage. 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 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. Kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

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

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia is a two-way street. A person’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive impairment. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

It also works the other way around. A person 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 decrease 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. Signals are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. The good news is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone will suffer from hearing loss if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of people, the random ear infection is not very risky because treatment clears it up. However, the little bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by constantly recurring ear infections. This type of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force, so no messages are transmitted to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

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