Studies show that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is unexpected for people who think of hearing loss as a condition associated with aging or noise trauma. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Some type of hearing loss most likely affects at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.
A person’s hearing can be impaired by quite a few diseases other than diabetes. Other than the apparent aspect of the aging process, what is the relationship between these conditions and hearing loss? Consider some diseases that can lead to hearing loss.
What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain but clinical evidence seems to indicate there is one. People with prediabetes, a condition that implies they may 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 conclusive reason as to why this happens, there are some theories. It is possible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be triggered by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to influence circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.
This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, commonly 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.
Meningitis has the potential to injure the fragile nerves which allow the inner ear to send signals to the brain. The brain has no means to interpret sound without these signals.
Conditions that impact the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. This category contains these common diseases:
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Peripheral artery disease
Age related hearing loss is normally linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is susceptible to harm. 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 loss of hearing.
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 feasible that this connection is a coincidence, though. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure.
Toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure may also be to blame, theoretically. These toxins could damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.
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 impairment. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.
The other side of the coin is true, also. A person who develops dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as damage to the brain increases.
Early in life the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. 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. It’s the component of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The good thing is mumps is pretty rare these days due to vaccinations. Not everyone who gets the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.
Chronic Ear Infections
Treatment gets rid of the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for the majority of people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from repeated ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough strength to deliver messages to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. 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.