Hear in Edmonton - Edmonton, Alberta

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. That might surprise those of you who automatically associate hearing loss with growing 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 type of hearing loss probably impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people with this disease.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by quite a few diseases other than diabetes. Besides the obvious aspect of aging, what is the link between these diseases and hearing loss? Give some thought to some illnesses that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain but clinical research seems to indicate there is one. A condition that indicates a person may 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 know why this occurs. It is possible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear could be triggered by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to influence circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes hearing loss. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain swell up 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. Among young people in America, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

The delicate nerves which send signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. The brain has no method to interpret sound if it doesn’t get these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella label that covers conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels. Some common diseases in this category include:

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

Commonly, cardiovascular diseases tend to be linked to age-related hearing loss. Injury can easily happen to the inner ear. 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 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 relationship is a coincidence, though. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions connected with high blood pressure.

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

Dementia

The connection between hearing loss and dementia is a two-way street. A person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increased by cognitive deterioration. Dementia comes about due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

The other side of the coin is true, as well. Somebody who has dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as injury to the brain increases.

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection that can cause children to lose their hearing when they’re very young. The reduction in hearing could be only on one side or it could affect both ears. The reason why this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Signals are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are relatively rare today. Not everyone who gets the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

For most individuals, the occasional ear infection is not much of a risk as treatment clears it up. For some, however, repeated infections take a toll on the tiny pieces that are needed for hearing like 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 reach 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 illnesses that can lead to 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.

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