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 could surprise those of you who automatically associate hearing loss with getting old or noise damage. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were below the age of 44. Evidence reveals 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 other than diabetes. Getting old is a major aspect both in sickness and hearing loss but what is the link between these disorders and ear health? These diseases that lead to loss of hearing should be taken into consideration.

Diabetes

It is not clear why people with diabetes have a higher occurrence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected to hearing loss, but the clinical evidence does point in that direction. A condition that suggests a person might 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 takes place, there are some theories. It is possible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear could be caused by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to influence circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.

Meningitis

Loss of hearing is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, normally due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing in part or in full if they get this condition. This infection is the second most common cause of hearing loss in the American youth.

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

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Commonly, cardiovascular diseases tend to be associated with age-related hearing loss. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. When there is a change in blood flow, it may not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and damage to the inner ear then leads to hearing loss.

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. There are lots of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions connected with high blood pressure.

Another possibility is that the toxins that collect in the blood due to kidney failure might be the culprit. These toxins may 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. A person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increased by cognitive impairment. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

It also works the other way around. 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 decrease in hearing may be only in one ear or it could impact 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 thing is mumps is pretty scarce these days due to vaccinations. Not everyone who gets the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. For some, however, repeated infections take a toll on the tiny components that are needed for hearing such as the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This kind of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough force, so no signals are sent to the brain. Infections can also lead to a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Many of the illnesses 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.