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Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies reveal that you are twice as likely to have hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is surprising for people who think of hearing loss as a condition associated with aging or noise trauma. Close to 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were below the age of 44. Evidence reveals that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease likely suffer from some form on hearing loss.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by several diseases besides diabetes. Besides the obvious aspect of the aging process, what is the connection between these diseases and hearing loss? Give some thought to some conditions that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is unclear but clinical evidence appears to suggest 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.

Even though there are some theories, scientists still don’t understand why this takes place. It is feasible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear might be caused by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to impact circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is swelling of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, normally due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people who develop this condition will also lose their hearing, either partially or completely. Among the American youth, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the delicate nerves which permit the inner ear to send signals to the brain. The brain has no method to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Age related hearing loss is commonly linked to cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is susceptible to harm. 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 with this condition also had an increased risk of hearing loss. A separate study found that chance to be as high as 43 percent. However, this connection may be a coincidence. Kidney disease and other conditions involving high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Toxins that build up in the blood due to kidney failure might also be the culprit, theoretically. These toxins could damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

Dementia and hearing loss have a two way effect on each other. There is some evidence that cognitive impairment increases a person’s chances 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, as well. A person who has dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as damage to the brain increases.

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 affect both ears. The reason that this happens is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. Messages are sent to the brain by this part 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 clears up the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. However, the little bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by constantly recurring ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough strength to deliver signals to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Prevention is the key to steering clear of many of the illnesses that can cause you to lose hearing. 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.

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