HEARING TIPS

Health Conditions That Can Cause Hearing Loss

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that you are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That may surprise those of you who automatically associate hearing loss with aging or noise trauma. Almost 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were under 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 damaged by several diseases other than diabetes. Other than the obvious aspect of the aging process, what is the relationship between these diseases and hearing loss? These diseases that cause hearing loss should be considered.

Diabetes

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

While there are some theories, researchers still don’t understand why this happens. It is feasible that damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear could be caused by high glucose levels. That’s a realistic assumption since diabetes is known to influence circulation.

Meningitis

This infectious disease causes loss of hearing. Meningitis by definition is inflammation of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, commonly due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people who have this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. This infection is the second most common reason for hearing loss among American young people.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the fragile nerves that permit the inner ear to send signals to the brain. The brain has no means to interpret sound if it doesn’t get these signals.

Cardiovascular Disease

Ailments that impact the heart or blood vessels are covered under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease”. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Age related hearing loss is normally associated with cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is subject to harm. 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 loss of hearing.

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 connection is a coincidence, though. There are lots of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure.

Another possibility is that the toxins that build up in the blood as a result of kidney failure may be the culprit. 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. There is the indication that cognitive deterioration increases a person’s risk of getting conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia happens because of brain atrophy and shrinkage. Difficulty 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 damage 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 could affect both ears. The reason that this happens 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 will experience hearing loss if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment gets rid of the occasional ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for the majority of people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can be seriously damaged by constantly recurring ear infections. When sound cannot reach the inner ear with enough force to deliver signals to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. Infections can also cause a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Prevention is the key to avoiding many of the diseases that can cause you to lose 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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