HEARING TIPS

Diabetes & Other Health Conditions That Can Cause Hearing Loss

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 might 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 nearly 500,000 of them were below the age of 44. Some form of hearing loss likely affects at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

A person’s hearing can be impaired by several diseases other than diabetes. Aging is a considerable factor both in sickness and loss of hearing but what is the relationship between these disorders and ear health? Consider some diseases that can lead to hearing loss.

Diabetes

It is not clear 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. A condition that suggests a person could develop type 2 diabetes, called prediabetes, causes people to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than people who don’t have it.

Even though there are some theories, scientists still don’t know why this takes place. It is possible that high glucose levels may cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. Diabetes is known to influence circulation, so that is a realistic assumption.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is swelling 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 partially or completely. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss among American young people.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the delicate nerves which permit the inner ear to forward signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no way of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that relates to ailments that impact the heart or blood vessels. Some normal diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is normally linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is vulnerable to injury. When there is a change in blood flow, it may not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and injury 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. It is possible that this connection is a coincidence, though. Kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Another possibility is that the toxins that collect in the blood due to kidney failure might be the cause. These toxins could damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia goes both ways. There is the indication that cognitive impairment increases a person’s risk of getting conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia comes about because of brain atrophy and shrinkage. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

The other side of the coin is true, as well. 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 that can cause children to lose their hearing early in life. Hearing loss might affect both ears or only one side. The reason that this happens is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. Signals are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are fairly rare at present. Not everyone will suffer from loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the random ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for most people. For some, however, infection after infection take a toll on the tiny pieces that are required for hearing like the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This type of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force, so no signals are transmitted to the brain. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Prevention is the key to steering clear of many of the diseases 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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