Hearing Care Specialists - Hopkins, Glencoe, and Watertown, MN

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. That may surprise those of you who immediately associate hearing loss with growing old or noise damage. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and almost 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Evidence shows 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 impaired by quite a few diseases other than diabetes. Aging is a major factor both in sickness and hearing loss but what is the link between these disorders and ear health? Give some thought to some diseases that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

It is unclear why people with diabetes have a higher incidence of hearing loss or even if diabetes is related to hearing loss, but the clinical evidence does point in that direction. A condition that indicates 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 there are some theories, researchers still don’t know why this happens. It is feasible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear might be triggered by high glucose levels. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to affect circulation.

Meningitis

Loss of hearing is a symptom of this infectious disease. Because of infection, the membranes that cover the spine and brain become inflamed and that defines meningitis. Studies show that 30 percent of people will lose their hearing partially or completely if they get this condition. Among the American youth, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

Meningitis has the potential to damage the fragile nerves that permit the inner ear to forward signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Commonly, cardiovascular diseases tend to be associated with age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is subject to injury. Damage 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 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. However, this connection might be a coincidence. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions connected with high blood pressure.

Another theory is that the toxins that build-up in the blood as a result of kidney failure could be the culprit. These toxins may damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

The link between loss of hearing and dementia goes both ways. A person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increased by cognitive impairment. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. Trouble hearing can hasten that process.

It also works the other way around. Somebody who develops 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. The decrease in hearing might be only in one ear or it might impact both ears. The reason for this is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. It’s the component of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The good news is mumps is pretty scarce these days due to vaccinations. Not everyone who gets the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

For most people, the random ear infection is not much of a risk since treatment clears it up. For some, though, infection after infection take a toll on the tiny components that are required for hearing like the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This kind of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough energy, 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. Throughout your life protecting your hearing will be achievable if you exercise regularly, get the right amount of sleep, and have a healthy diet. You should also get regular hearing exams to make sure your ears stay healthy.

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