Diabetes & Other Health Conditions That Can Cause Hearing Loss

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 trauma. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Some type of hearing loss likely affects at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by several diseases besides diabetes. Apart from the apparent factor of the aging process, what is the link between these conditions and hearing loss? Give some thought to some diseases that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain but clinical evidence appears to indicate there is one. People who have prediabetes, a condition that implies they could develop type 2 diabetes, tend to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than those with normal blood sugar levels.

While researchers don’t have a definitive reason as to why this occurs, there are some theories. It is feasible that harm to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear may be caused by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to influence circulation, so that is a realistic assumption.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain swell up 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.

The delicate nerves that send signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. The brain has no method to interpret sound without these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that relates to ailments that affect the heart or blood vessels. Some normal diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is normally associated with cardiovascular diseases. Injury can easily happen to the inner ear. When there is a change in blood flow, it might not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and injury 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. Kidney disease and other ailments involving high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Another possibility is that the toxins that build up in the blood as a result of kidney failure might be to blame. 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 goes both ways. There is some evidence that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia comes about due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. Difficulty hearing can hasten that process.

The other side of the coin is true, as well. As injury to the brain increases a person who has dementia will show a decline in their hearing even though their hearing is normal.

Mumps

Early in life the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The reduction in hearing may be only in one ear or it may impact both ears. The reason for this is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. It’s the part of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are pretty rare at present. Not everyone will suffer from loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of people, the random ear infection is not very risky because treatment gets rid of it. However, the little bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from repeated ear infections. This type of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force, so no messages are sent to the brain. Infections can also lead to a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Prevention is the key to steering clear of many of the diseases that can cost you your hearing. 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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