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Diabetes & Hearing Loss

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Did you know? Studies have found you are twice as likely to develop mild to moderate hearing loss compared to people without diabetes.

What is the link between hearing loss and diabetes? Although the exact cause of hearing loss is unknown, current research points toward poor blood circulation, which can damage existing blood vessels within the hair cells inside the cochlea of the inner ear. In turn, this causes the delicate hair cells in the inner ear to deteriorate, laying the groundwork for sensorineural hearing loss to occur. Since it can happen slowly, the symptoms of hearing loss can often be hard to notice. If you know someone with diabetes, let them know they should have their hearing tested every few years, if not more.

The global prevalence of diabetes in the U.S. is estimated to be 9% among adults.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), diabetes will affect nearly one-third of the world's population by 2050 (CDC, 2014). By 2025, there will be a 57% increase in the majority of Diabetes in North America. Nearly 30 million people in the U.S. currently have diabetes, and 86 million adults have prediabetes (CDC).

Diabetes is a chronic disease that inhibits the body’s ability to produce and manage insulin appropriately, causing glucose to build up in the bloodstream instead of feeding hungry cells. occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycaemia). Over the long-term high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.

Besides causing nerve damage to your hands, feet, eyes, and kidneys, diabetes can also cause irreparable damage to the ears. Studies show that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes than in those who don't. Elevated blood sugar levels associated with Type 2 diabetes can damage blood vessels and reduce blood flow, damaging the inner ear's structure. Low blood sugar can damage how the nerve signals travel from the inner ear to your brain. Each of these types of issues can lead to permanent hearing loss. 

If you are concerned about hearing loss, a hearing evaluation can be performed by an audiologist to determine the severity of the loss; a hearing healthcare professional can interpret those results to recommend appropriate treatment options. These might include using amplifiers for your devices (such as your phone), hearing aids, and cochlear implants (surgically implanted devices that stimulate the auditory nerve to recreate a sense of sound).  

Although hearing loss is not reversible, keeping your blood sugar as close to your target levels as possible can help mitigate hearing loss from occurring. Patients with diabetes should have their hearing tested just as they are for eye and kidney complications. Patients should have their hearing tested at initial diagnosis or initial assessment and every year after that. Having your hearing checked annually is the best way to ensure no changes in your hearing have occurred. The earlier hearing loss is detected, the more effective treatment options such as hearing aids are likely to be. Also, be sure to ask your doctor whether any medicines you're taking can damage your hearing and inquire about safe alternatives.

Ask yourself the following questions if you think you might be losing your hearing:

  • Has anyone complained that you’re not listening?
  • Do you often ask people to repeat themselves?
  • Do you complain that people are always mumbling?
  • Do you have problems following conversations with more than two people?
  • Have people complained that you listen to the TV or radio too loudly?
  • Do you have trouble understanding conversations in crowded rooms?

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you should have your hearing tested to assess it and prevent further damage.

  • How To Protect Your Ears
  • You can’t reverse hearing loss, but you can follow these tips to help protect your ears:
  • Keep your blood sugar as close to your target levels as possible.
  • Get your hearing checked every year.
  • Avoid other causes of hearing loss, including loud noises.
  • Ask your doctor whether any medicines you’re taking can damage your hearing and what other options are available.

 

Here are a few articles that you can read to increase your understanding of how diabetes can affect your hearing. 

Type 2 diabetes and the risk of incident hearing loss

What You Need to Know About Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Diabetes and Hearing Loss

 

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