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A Link between Hearing Loss & Diabetes

A Link between Hearing Loss & Diabetes


Hearing loss may occur with comorbidities and other physical and medical conditions. Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or the presence of one or more other disorders coinciding with a primary disorder. Comorbidities of hearing loss include cardiovascular disease, dementia, balance disorders, and diabetes.

While the connections between hearing loss and dementia and hearing loss and cardiovascular disease have been explored more thoroughly, the link between hearing loss and diabetes is now being more closely explored.


A Quick Overview of Diabetes

Diabetes is a common medical condition in the United States, affecting approximately 30 million Americans. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes interfere with insulin production in the pancreas; in the former, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, while in the latter, there is overproduction. The irregularity in insulin production affects blood glucose levels, which increases the risk for strokes and heart attacks, and causes problems in the cardiovascular system. Recent studies have begun to link diabetes and hearing loss through this connection.

A recent study found that people with diabetes lose their hearing twice as often as people who don't have diabetes. Also, 30 percent more people with prediabetes lose their hearing than people with average blood sugar. This is true for 86 million adults in the US.


Potential Links between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

From a piece in Diabetic Living Online, Research shows that people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes that is not under control are twice as likely to lose their hearing as other people. Researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases looked at a large group of people ages 20 to 69. They found a strong link between diabetes and hearing problems that started as early as 30.

Similarly, researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit conducted a study among women under 60. They found that hearing was worse among those with type 1 or type two diabetes than women without diabetes. They also found that women between 60 and 75 years of age with poorly controlled diabetes had significantly worse hearing than those whose diabetes was considered well-controlled.

The link between diabetes and hearing loss can potentially be found in our auditory system, in which our hair cells rely on a healthy flow of blood to function correctly. Inner ear hair cells are responsible for translating sounds into electrical signals registered by our brains as sound.

According to Joanne Rinker of the North Carolina Diabetes Prevention and Control Branch, Nerves in the ears break down when blood sugar levels rise, the same type of nerve damage that causes tingling and other symptoms in the fingertips and toes. When blood sugar levels are high, the blood in the veins looks like syrup. Consider how difficult this blood might be to get into the tiny capillaries of the cochlea. This alone could be what causes hearing loss.


How to Protect Your Ears from Diabetes Complications

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is essential to follow the strict instructions set forth by your medical care provider. Dr. Elizabeth A. Dinces of the Montefiore Medical Center in New York recommends taking your prescribed medications, eating a healthful diet, controlling portions, and exercising every day. She says Strict glycemic control has known overall benefits for patients, including hearing.


It's never too early to get a hearing test

Hearing loss interferes with our inability to recognize speech. Hearing loss often occurs gradually, and you may not at first notice the symptoms of hearing loss. If you've found that people are mumbling or that you have to ask people to repeat themselves often, it may be hearing loss. Similarly, if you've found that the volume is turned up to maximum on your TV or radio and still have trouble hearing, you may be experiencing hearing loss.

It is essential to get your hearing checked annually, especially if experiencing other medical conditions. Hearing specialists recommend an annual hearing test from when you are 50 years of age. Taking an annual hearing test with us means you'll have your audiogram on file, and we'll be able to catch any changes in your hearing abilities immediately.

Take the first step toward better hearing health! Contact us today to schedule a hearing test.