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. This statistic is surprising for those who picture hearing loss as a condition associated with growing old or noise damage. Almost 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were under the age of 44. Some type of hearing loss most likely affects at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

The main point is that diabetes is just one in many ailments that can cost a person their hearing. Besides the apparent aspect of aging, what is the link between these conditions and hearing loss? Consider some diseases that can lead to hearing loss.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is unclear but clinical research seems to suggest there is one. People with prediabetes, a condition that implies they may develop type 2 diabetes, tend to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than those with normal blood sugar levels.

While scientists don’t have a conclusive answer as to why this happens, there are some theories. It is possible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear could be triggered by high glucose levels. Diabetes is known to affect circulation, so that is a realistic assumption.

Meningitis

Loss of hearing 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. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss in American young people.

The fragile nerves that relay signals to the inner ear are potentially injured by meningitis. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Usually, cardiovascular diseases tend to be linked to age-related hearing loss. Damage can easily happen to the inner ear. 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 with this condition also had an increased risk of hearing loss. A separate study found that chance to be as high as 43 percent. It is possible that this relationship is a coincidence, though. Kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

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

Dementia

Dementia and hearing loss have a two way effect on each other. A person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease appears to be increased by cognitive impairment. Dementia occurs due to brain atrophy and shrinkage. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

It also works the other way around. A person who develops dementia even though there is normal hearing will show a decline in their hearing as damage to the brain increases.

Mumps

At an early age the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. The decrease in hearing may be only in one ear or it may impact both ears. The reason that this happens 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 nowadays due to vaccinations. Not everyone who has the mumps will suffer from hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

For the majority of people, the random ear infection is not much of a risk since treatment gets rid of it. However, the small bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by repeated ear infections. This kind of hearing loss is called conductive, and it means that sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force, so no signals are sent to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

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 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.