HEARING TIPS

Hearing Loss Can be Caused by Many Health Conditions

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies indicate that you are twice as likely to struggle with hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. That may surprise those of you who immediately associate hearing loss with growing old or noise damage. Close to 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 impaired by quite a few diseases other than diabetes. Other than the obvious aspect of aging, what is the connection between these conditions and hearing loss? Consider some illnesses that can lead to hearing loss.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is uncertain but clinical evidence appears to indicate there is one. A condition that suggests a person could develop type 2 diabetes, called prediabetes, causes people to lose their hearing 30 percent faster than people who don’t have it.

While scientists don’t have a definitive reason as to why this takes place, there are some theories. It is possible that high glucose levels may 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. 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 in part or in full if they get this condition. Among young people in America, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

Meningitis has the potential to injure the delicate nerves which allow the inner ear to send signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no way of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

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

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

Age related hearing loss is usually linked to cardiovascular diseases. Injury can easily happen to the inner ear. Injury to the inner ear causes hearing loss when there is a change in blood flow and it doesn’t receive 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 could be a coincidence. Kidney disease and other conditions associated with high blood pressure or diabetes have lots of the same risk factors.

Toxins that accumulate in the blood due to kidney failure might also be responsible, theoretically. These toxins may damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

The connection between hearing loss and dementia goes both ways. There is the indication that cognitive impairment increases a person’s chances of getting conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. Difficulty hearing can hasten that process.

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

Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection which can cause children to lose their hearing early in life. Hearing loss may affect both ears or only one side. The reason for this is that the cochlea of the inner ear is damaged by the virus. Signals are sent to the brain by this portion of the ear. 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 clears up the occasional ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. However, the tiny bones of the inner ear or the eardrum can take serious damage from repeated ear infections. When sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough force to send signals to the brain it’s known as conductive hearing loss. Infections can also lead to a sensorineural hearing loss, which means nerve damage.

Prevention is the key to steering clear of many of the illnesses 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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