Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies reveal that you are twice as likely to struggle with hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That could surprise those of you who immediately connect hearing loss with getting old or noise trauma. Close to 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were under the age of 44. Some form of hearing loss probably impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

The point is that diabetes is just one in many ailments that can cost a person their hearing. Apart from the obvious aspect of the aging process, what is the connection between these diseases and hearing loss? These diseases that lead to loss of hearing should be considered.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is not clear but clinical evidence seems to indicate there is one. 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.

While there are some theories, researchers still don’t understand why this takes place. It is possible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be triggered by high glucose levels. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to affect circulation.

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, usually due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing partially or completely if they develop this condition. Among the American youth, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

The fragile nerves that relay signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. Without these signals, the brain has no way of interpreting sound.

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:

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

Usually, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be linked to age-related hearing loss. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. When there is an alteration of the blood flow, it may 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 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 relationship is a coincidence, though. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure.

Toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure could also be to blame, theoretically. 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 getting conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia occurs because of brain atrophy and shrinkage. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

The flip side of the coin is true, as well. As damage to the brain increases someone who has dementia will show a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

Early in life the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The decrease in hearing could be only on one side or it could impact both ears. The reason 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 thing is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone will suffer from hearing loss if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

For most individuals, the random ear infection is not much of a risk because treatment gets rid of it. However, the small bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by constantly recurring ear infections. This type of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough force, so no messages are transmitted to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Prevention is the key to steering clear of many of the illnesses that can cost you your hearing. 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.