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Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is surprising for people who picture hearing loss as a problem associated with getting old 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. Evidence shows that 250,000 of those younger people with the disease probably suffer from some form on hearing loss.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by several diseases besides diabetes. Growing old is a considerable factor both in illness and loss of hearing but what is the connection between these disorders and ear health? Consider some conditions that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

It is uncertain why people who have diabetes have a higher incidence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is related to hearing loss, but the clinical research does point in that direction. 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.

Even though there are some theories, researchers still don’t know why this takes place. It is possible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear could be triggered by high glucose levels. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain become inflamed and that defines meningitis. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing in part or in full if they develop this condition. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss among American young people.

The fragile nerves which send signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. Without these signals, the brain has no means of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella name that covers ailments that affect the heart or blood vessels. Some typical diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is commonly linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is susceptible to injury. Injury to the inner ear causes hearing loss when there is a change in blood flow and it doesn’t receive the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to thrive.

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. Kidney disease and other ailments involving high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Another theory is that the toxins that build-up in the blood due to kidney failure may be to blame. These toxins may damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

The link between hearing loss and dementia goes both ways. 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. Trouble hearing can hasten that process.

It also works the other way around. As damage to the brain increases a person 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 may be only in one ear 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 portion of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are pretty rare nowadays. Not everyone will suffer from loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from constantly recurring ear infections. This form 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. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Many of the illnesses that can cause hearing loss can be avoided by prevention. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise and regular sleep habits really help with 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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