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 have hearing loss if you have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. This statistic is unexpected for people who think of hearing loss as a problem associated with growing old or noise damage. Almost 500,000 of the1.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in 2010 were below the age of 44. Some form of hearing loss probably affects at least 250,000 of the younger people who have this disease.

A person’s hearing can be impaired by quite a few diseases besides diabetes. The aging process is a considerable factor both in illness and loss of hearing but what is the link between these disorders and ear health? Consider some diseases that can lead to loss of hearing.

Diabetes

It is not clear why people who have diabetes have a higher chance of hearing loss or even if diabetes is connected to hearing loss, but the clinical research does point in that direction. A condition that suggests 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 scientists don’t have a conclusive reason as to why this occurs, there are some theories. It is possible that high glucose levels could cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. Diabetes is known to impact circulation, so that is a reasonable assumption.

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 who have this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. Among the American youth, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

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

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term that covers ailments that involve the heart or blood vessels. This category contains these common diseases:

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

Typically, cardiovascular diseases tend to be associated with age-related hearing loss. The inner ear is vulnerable to damage. When there is an alteration of the blood flow, it may not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive, and injury 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 feasible that this relationship is a coincidence, though. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other ailments associated with high blood pressure.

Another possibility is that the toxins that collect in the blood as a result of kidney failure might be the cause. The connection that the nerves have with the brain might be closed off because of damage to the ear by these toxins.

Dementia

The link between hearing loss 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 accelerate that process.

It also works the other way around. As injury to the brain increases someone 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. The decrease in hearing may be only on one side or it could impact both ears. The reason this occurs is the virus damages the cochlea in the inner ear. It’s the component of the ear that sends signals to the brain. The good thing is mumps is pretty rare these days due to vaccinations. Not everyone who has the mumps will experience hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the random ear infection so it’s not very risky for most people. For some, though, infection after infection can wear out the tiny components that are needed for hearing such as the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. This kind of hearing loss is known as conductive, and it means that sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough energy, so no messages 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 illnesses that can cause you to lose hearing. Throughout your life protecting your hearing will be possible 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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