HEARING TIPS

Health Conditions That Can Cause Hearing Loss

Woman with diabetes thinking about hearing loss.

Studies show that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss, according to the American Diabetes Association. That could surprise those of you who automatically connect hearing loss with aging or noise trauma. In 2010, 1.9 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and close to 500,000 of them were under the age of 44. Evidence reveals that 250,000 of those younger people who have the disease probably suffer from some form on hearing loss.

A person’s hearing can be damaged by quite a few diseases other than diabetes. Besides the obvious aspect of the aging process, what is the relationship between these diseases and hearing loss? These illnesses that lead to loss of hearing should be taken into consideration.

Diabetes

What the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss is not clear but clinical research seems 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 researchers don’t have a conclusive answer as to why this happens, there are some theories. It is feasible that high glucose levels may cause damage to the blood vessels that feed the inner ear. Diabetes is known to influence circulation, so that is a realistic assumption.

Meningitis

Hearing loss is a symptom of this infectious disease. Meningitis by definition is swelling of the membranes that cover the spinal cord and brain, normally due to infection. Studies show that 30 percent of people who develop this condition will also lose their hearing, either in part or in full. Among young people in America, this infection is the second leading cause of hearing loss.

Meningitis has the potential to harm the fragile nerves which permit the inner ear to send signals to the brain. Without these signals, the brain has no method of interpreting sound.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella label that relates to conditions that involve the heart or blood vessels. Some typical diseases in this category include:

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

Age related hearing loss is usually associated with cardiovascular diseases. The inner ear is subject to harm. Damage to the inner ear causes 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. There are many of the same risk factors with kidney disease and other conditions connected with high blood pressure.

Another hypothesis is that the toxins that build up in the blood as a result of kidney failure might be to blame. These toxins could damage the nerves in the inner ear, closing the connection it has with the brain.

Dementia

Dementia and hearing loss have a two way effect on each other. There is some evidence that cognitive impairment increases a person’s risk of developing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Brain shrinkage and atrophy are the causes of dementia. That process is accelerated by hearing loss.

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

Mumps

At an early age the viral infection mumps can cause children to lose their hearing. 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 positive thing is, due to vaccination mumps are fairly rare at present. Not everyone will experience loss of hearing if they get the mumps.

Chronic Ear Infections

Treatment clears up the occasional ear infection so it’s not much of a risk for the majority of people. For some, though, infection after infection take a toll on the tiny pieces that are required for hearing like the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. When sound cannot get to the inner ear with enough strength to deliver messages to the brain it’s called conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss or nerve damage can also be caused by infections.

Many of the illnesses that can cause hearing loss can be avoided by prevention. 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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