Audiology Specialty Clinic - Sioux Falls, SD

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that you are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That may surprise those of you who automatically connect hearing loss with getting old or noise damage. Almost 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were under the age of 44. Evidence reveals that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease probably suffer from some form on hearing loss.

A person’s hearing can be impaired by quite a few diseases besides diabetes. Besides the obvious factor of the aging process, what is the relationship between these conditions and hearing loss? These illnesses that cause loss of hearing should be considered.

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 research does point in that direction. People who have prediabetes, a condition that implies they might develop type 2 diabetes, tend to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than those with normal blood sugar levels.

Even though there are some theories, scientists still don’t know why this occurs. It is possible that high glucose levels might cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. 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 have this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss among the American youth.

Meningitis has the potential to damage the fragile nerves that permit the inner ear to forward signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no means of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that covers conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Age related hearing loss is generally linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is subject 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. However, this connection might be a coincidence. Kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Toxins that accumulate in the blood due to kidney failure may also be the culprit, theoretically. The connection that the nerves have with the brain may be closed off because of damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia goes both ways. A person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increased by cognitive impairment. Dementia comes about due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. Trouble hearing can hasten that process.

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

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection which can cause children to lose their hearing early in life. Loss of hearing might affect both ears or only one side. The reason why this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Messages are sent to the brain by this part of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are relatively rare nowadays. Not everyone who gets the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the occasional ear infection so it’s not very risky for the majority of people. However, the small bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by constantly recurring ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force to deliver messages to the brain it’s called conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Prevention is the key to avoiding many of the diseases that can cause you to lose hearing. Throughout your life protecting your hearing will be achievable 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.

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