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Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies reveal that you are twice as likely to have hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you are a person that associates hearing loss with getting old or noise damage, this may surprise you. Close to 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were under the age of 44. Some type 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. Apart from the obvious aspect of aging, what is the link between these diseases and hearing loss? These conditions that cause hearing loss should be considered.

Diabetes

What the link is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain but clinical evidence appears to indicate there is one. A condition that indicates 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 scientists don’t have a conclusive answer as to why this takes place, there are some theories. It is possible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be caused by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to affect circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.

Meningitis

Loss of hearing is a symptom of this infectious disease. 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 will lose their hearing partially or completely if they develop 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 that allow the inner ear to forward signals to the brain. The brain has no means to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Commonly, cardiovascular diseases tend to be linked to age-related hearing loss. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. Damage 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. It is possible that this connection is a coincidence, though. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments connected with high blood pressure.

Toxins that build up in the blood as a result of kidney failure may also be responsible, theoretically. These toxins could damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

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

It also works the other way around. Somebody who has dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as injury to the brain increases.

Mumps

At an early age the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The reduction in hearing may be only on one side or it could impact both ears. The reason why this happens is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Messages are sent to the brain by this part of the ear. 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

Treatment clears up 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 take serious damage from repeated ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough energy to send signals to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

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 really help with protecting your ear health throughout your life. You should also get regular hearing exams to make sure your ears stay healthy.