Hearing Helpers - Rockford, IL

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. This fact is surprising for those who think of hearing loss as a condition associated with getting old or noise damage. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and nearly 500,000 of them were under 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 apparent factor of the aging process, what is the relationship between these conditions and hearing loss? Give some thought to some conditions that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

It is uncertain why people who have diabetes have a higher incidence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected to hearing loss, but the clinical research does point in that direction. People with prediabetes, a condition that indicates they may 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, researchers still don’t understand why this takes place. It is feasible that high glucose levels might 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. 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 who have this condition will also lose their hearing, either partially or completely. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss in American young people.

Meningitis has the potential to injure the delicate nerves that 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 name that covers conditions that involve the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Age related hearing loss is usually linked to cardiovascular diseases. 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. However, this connection may be a coincidence. Kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have many of the same risk factors.

Toxins that build up in the blood due to kidney failure might also be responsible, theoretically. The connection that the nerves have with the brain could be closed off due to damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

The connection between loss of hearing and dementia is a two-way street. A person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease seems 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, also. A person who has dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as injury to the brain increases.

Mumps

Early in life the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. Hearing loss might affect both ears or only one side. The reason this happens is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. It’s the component of the ear that sends messages to the brain. 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 clears up the random ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for most people. However, the small bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from constantly recurring ear infections. This kind of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough energy, so no messages are transmitted to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Many of the diseases that can cause 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.

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