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Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that you are twice as likely to have hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is unexpected for people who picture hearing loss as a problem associated with getting old or noise damage. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and almost 500,000 of them were below the age of 44. Some kind of hearing loss likely affects at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

A person’s hearing can be impaired by quite a few diseases besides diabetes. Other than the apparent factor of the aging process, what is the connection between these diseases and hearing loss? Give some thought to some conditions that can lead to hearing loss.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people who have diabetes have a higher occurrence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected to hearing loss, but the clinical research does point in that direction. 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 definitive answer as to why this takes place, there are some theories. It is feasible that high glucose levels could cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. Diabetes is known to affect circulation, so that is a realistic assumption.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain swell up and that defines meningitis. Studies show that 30 percent of people who develop this condition will also lose their hearing, either partially or completely. Among young people in America, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

The fragile nerves which relay signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. The brain has no method to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. This category contains these well-known diseases:

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

Age related hearing loss is generally linked to cardiovascular diseases. 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 get the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to thrive.

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 feasible that this connection is a coincidence, though. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure.

Another possibility is that the toxins that collect in the blood due to kidney failure may be the culprit. 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. Difficulty hearing can accelerate that process.

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

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection which can cause children to lose their hearing when they’re very young. The decrease in hearing might be only in one ear or it could impact both ears. The reason why this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Signals are sent to the brain by this part of the ear. The good news is mumps is pretty scarce nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who gets the mumps will experience hearing loss.

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 components that are required for hearing such as the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This form of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough force, so no signals are transmitted to the brain. 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 cause you to lose hearing. 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.