Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is surprising for people who view hearing loss as a condition associated with getting 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 form of hearing loss most likely impacts at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by several diseases other than diabetes. Apart from the apparent factor of the aging process, what is the relationship between these conditions and hearing loss? These illnesses that lead to loss of hearing should be taken into consideration.

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 could develop type 2 diabetes, called prediabetes, causes people to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than people who don’t have it.

While researchers don’t have a conclusive answer as to why this happens, there are some theories. It is possible that high glucose levels may cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. That’s a reasonable assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes hearing loss. 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. Among the American youth, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the delicate nerves which allow the inner ear to send signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Ailments that impact the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. Some normal diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is commonly linked to cardiovascular diseases. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. 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 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 lots of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure.

Another possibility is that the toxins that collect in the blood due to kidney failure may be the cause. 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 deterioration increases a person’s risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia comes about because of brain atrophy and shrinkage. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

The flip side of the coin is true, also. Somebody who develops 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 might be only in one ear or it could affect both ears. The reason for this 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 news is mumps is pretty rare these days due to vaccinations. Not everyone who gets the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of individuals, the random ear infection is not very risky as treatment gets rid of it. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from constantly recurring ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force to send messages to the brain it’s called conductive hearing loss. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

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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