Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you are a person that associates hearing loss with getting old or noise trauma, this may surprise you. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Some kind of hearing loss most likely impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

The point is that diabetes is just one in many diseases that can cost a person their hearing. The aging process is a considerable aspect both in illness and loss of hearing but what is the relationship between these conditions and ear health? Consider some conditions that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

What the link is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain but clinical evidence seems to suggest there is one. A condition that suggests 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.

Even though there are some theories, scientists still don’t know why this occurs. It is feasible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear might be caused by high glucose levels. That’s a reasonable 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 have this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss among American young people.

Meningitis has the potential to injure the delicate nerves which permit the inner ear to send signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no means of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Ailments that impact the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. This category contains these well-known diseases:

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

Normally, cardiovascular diseases tend to be associated with age-related hearing loss. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. Damage to the inner ear causes 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 connection is a coincidence, though. Kidney disease and other conditions 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 to blame, theoretically. The connection that the nerves have with the brain may be closed off due to damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

Dementia and hearing loss have a two way effect on each other. A person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease seems to be increased by cognitive deterioration. Dementia happens due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. Trouble hearing can accelerate that process.

The other side of the coin is true, also. As injury to the brain increases someone 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. Hearing loss might affect both ears or only one side. 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 good thing is mumps is pretty rare nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who has the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of individuals, the random ear infection is not much of a risk because treatment gets rid of it. For some, however, repeated infections 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 get to the inner ear with enough energy, so no signals are transmitted to the brain. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Many of the diseases that can cause hearing loss can be avoided by prevention. 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.