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Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

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

A person’s hearing can be damaged by quite a few diseases besides diabetes. Apart from the obvious aspect of the aging process, what is the link between these diseases and hearing loss? These diseases that lead to loss of hearing should be taken into consideration.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people who have diabetes have a higher chance of hearing loss or even if diabetes is related to hearing loss, but the clinical evidence does point in that direction. People with prediabetes, a condition that indicates they could develop type 2 diabetes, tend to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than those with normal blood sugar levels.

While scientists don’t have a definitive answer as to why this takes place, there are some theories. It is possible 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

Loss of hearing 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 have this condition will also lose their hearing, either partially or completely. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss in the American youth.

The delicate nerves that relay signals to the inner ear are potentially damaged by meningitis. The brain has no way to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Ailments that impact the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. Some typical diseases in this category include:

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

Commonly, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be associated with age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is susceptible to damage. Injury 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 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 build up in the blood due to kidney failure may also be to blame, theoretically. The connection that the nerves have with the brain may be closed off because of damage to the ear by these toxins.

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. Dementia comes about because of brain atrophy and shrinkage. Difficulty hearing can accelerate that process.

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 when they’re very young. The decrease in hearing might be only on one side or it may affect both ears. The reason for this is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. It’s the part of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are pretty rare at present. Not everyone who has the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of people, the random ear infection is not much of a risk as treatment gets rid of it. For some, though, repeated infections take a toll on the tiny components that are necessary for hearing such as the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This form of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough force, so no signals are sent to the brain. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Prevention is the key to avoiding many of the diseases that can cause you to lose 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.

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