Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. This statistic is unexpected for those who view hearing loss as a problem associated with aging or noise damage. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Some type of hearing loss most likely affects at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

The thing is that diabetes is just one of several illnesses that can cost a person their hearing. Apart from the apparent aspect of the aging process, what is the relationship between these diseases and hearing loss? Give some thought to some conditions that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

What the link is between diabetes and hearing loss is unclear but clinical research appears to indicate there is one. A condition that indicates 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 happens, there are some theories. It is feasible that high glucose levels could cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to affect circulation.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes hearing loss. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain become inflamed and that defines meningitis. Studies show that 30 percent of people who develop this condition will also lose their hearing, either partially or completely. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss among the American youth.

The delicate nerves that send signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. 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 normal diseases in this category include:

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

Typically, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be linked to age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is vulnerable to harm. When there is a change in blood flow, it might 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 many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions connected with high blood pressure.

Another possibility is that the toxins that build up in the blood due to kidney failure may be the culprit. These toxins may damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

Dementia and hearing loss have a two way effect on each other. There is some evidence that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. Difficulty hearing can accelerate that process.

The other side of the coin is true, also. Someone 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 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. Signals are sent to the brain by this part of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are pretty rare at present. Not everyone will experience hearing loss if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for the majority of people. However, the little bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from constantly recurring 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. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Many of the diseases that can lead to hearing loss can be avoided by prevention. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and regular sleep habits will go a long way to protecting your ear health throughout your life. You should also get regular hearing exams to make sure your ears stay healthy.