Check Your Hearing This November for American Diabetes Month(2) (1).jpg

November is American Diabetes Month, a campaign sponsored by the American Diabetes Association to help raise awareness on one of the leading chronic health issues in the United States. More than one in ten Americans have diabetes and nearly 90 million Americans qualify as prediabetic. 

Diabetes can lead to a host of other health conditions, like cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, and even dementia. But, being diabetic or even prediabetic is also linked with an increased risk of hearing loss. 


The link between diabetes and hearing loss

Both hearing loss and diabetes impact a wide swath of people in this country. However, it seems that a Venn diagram would show that there is quite a bit of shared territory between these two seemingly different populations. 

Recent studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss as those who don’t, even when age is taken into consideration. People with prediabetes have a 30 percent higher risk of hearing loss compared to people with healthy blood sugar levels.


What explains the link between hearing loss and diabetes

People with both conditions aren’t just chronically unlucky. Instead, we have to return to the reason that nerve damage is a health condition associated with diabetes. When blood sugar levels spike and drop — varying widely beyond and below ‘normal’ levels — it creates a toxic environment for the cells of our body. 

This toxic environment caused by out-of-control glucose levels can impact the cells of the inner ear. These fine, sensitive cells are responsible for receiving the sound information collected by our ears. They do not repair themselves when they are damaged and they don’t produce new cells. Instead, we are born with a finite number. 

When these cells can no longer receive the full range of sound due to their disappearance or damage, the brain receives less sound information to process. This is when hearing loss occurs.


Other causes of late-onset hearing loss

The strongest predictor for hearing loss continues to be age. The two most common types of hearing loss are age-related and noise-induced. The natural aging process causes a decline in inner ear cells, resulting in age-related hearing loss. Too much dangerously loud noise can also erode the health of these cells, which in turn creates noise-induced hearing loss. 


Ways to prevent further hearing loss

If you have diabetes, avoiding potential hearing loss can be a further motivator in keeping your blood sugar levels close to your target. It’s possible that as glucose levels remain stabilized, the threat of damage to the inner ear cells is minimized. 

Be mindful of the noise environments you find yourself in. Even a sound that is slightly too loud can be harmful to your ears if you’re repeatedly exposed to it for a prolonged period of time. If you have to be in noisy situations, you might use hearing protection like custom earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. 

Take a break from your earbuds every now and again. Now that we essentially live online, giving your ears a break from persistent noise can be a helpful practice in both protecting your ears, as well as giving your mind a little quiet. 


Treatment for diabetes and hearing loss

Though there is no cure for either hearing loss or diabetes, both conditions are manageable and have proven, successful treatments available. 

For diabetes, your medical provider will probably recommend a mixture of medications and lifestyle changes once you have a diagnosis. Without too much effort, you can begin to incorporate small changes into your diet to limit carbohydrates and boost your intake of leafy vegetables and lean proteins. Sticking to a movement plan that feels realistic can accomplish both diabetes management and brings along great side-effects like mental and emotional wellness benefits.

To properly diagnose hearing loss, you must get the opinion of a trained hearing health professional. It’s notoriously difficult to self-diagnose as the first signs are often so subtle. Your friends and family are more likely to notice your hearing loss than you are at first. If conversations have become more difficult or you have trouble hearing in a crowd, schedule a hearing consultation today. Once you have a diagnosis, you can talk to us about possible solutions like hearing aids or other assistive listening devices.