Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that you are twice as likely to have hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That could surprise those of you who automatically connect hearing loss with growing old or noise damage. Almost 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were below the age of 44. Evidence shows that 250,000 of those younger people with the disease probably have some form on hearing loss.

A person’s hearing can be impaired by quite a few diseases besides diabetes. Other than the apparent aspect of the aging process, what is the relationship between these diseases and hearing loss? These diseases that lead to loss of hearing should be considered.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people with diabetes have a higher incidence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected 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.

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

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. 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 partially or completely. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss in American young people.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the fragile nerves which permit the inner ear to forward signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no means of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella label that covers conditions that involve the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Commonly, cardiovascular diseases have a tendency to be linked to age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is subject to injury. Damage to the inner ear leads to 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 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 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 theory is that the toxins that collect in the blood due to kidney failure may be the cause. The connection that the nerves have with the brain might be closed off due to damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

The link between hearing loss and dementia is a two-way street. There is some evidence that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia comes about due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

The flip side of the coin is true, also. As damage to the brain increases a person who has dementia will have a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection that can cause children to lose their hearing early in life. Loss of hearing might impact both ears or only one side. The reason for this is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. Signals are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. The good thing is mumps is pretty scarce these days due to vaccinations. Not everyone will experience hearing loss if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the random ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for most people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by constantly recurring ear infections. This kind of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough energy, so no messages are sent to the brain. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

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