Around 30 million individuals have diabetes in the United States alone, and a high percentage will develop hearing loss. Why is this the case, and how can people with diabetes care for their hearing?
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a long-term condition that develops when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin or when the body is unable to use the insulin it receives. Insulin is a pancreatic hormone that helps us convert glucose from food into energy.
Not being able to manufacture or use insulin efficiently contributes to elevated blood glucose levels (known as hyperglycemia). Over the long term, high glucose levels are associated with organ and tissue failure. There are three major diabetes types: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Hearing Loss and Diabetes
It’s unclear what the connection is between diabetes and hearing loss, but growing clinical evidence indicates one. People with prediabetes appear to lose their hearing 30 percent earlier than those with normal blood sugar levels. Research is ongoing as to why this happens; there are a couple of early theories.
- Diabetic neuropathy: High blood sugar levels in the body can damage nerves (known as diabetic neuropathy). Some researchers suggest that your hearing nerves can be damaged too by diabetes.
- Damage to blood vessels: Another hypothesis is that the very tiny blood vessels that sustain and feed the inner ear can be impaired from high blood sugar levels. This is similar to how our vision and kidney function can also be impaired by high blood sugar. The blood vessels feeding the ear are very similar to the systems that support the eyes and kidneys. As this mechanism is impaired, hearing is affected.
Other Risk Factors for Hearing Loss
Aside from diabetes, here are some other risk factors which may lead to hearing loss:
- Being sixty-five or older
- Being male
- Daily exposure to noisy sounds
- Being a regular smoker
- Having a genetic predisposition for hearing loss.
Preventing Hearing Loss from Diabetes
Inner ear hearing loss is also known as sensorineural hearing loss. It’s important to know that this type of hearing loss is irreversible once established.
With that in mind, you should carefully monitor your blood glucose, have your hearing tested regularly, and speak to a healthcare professional as soon as you can when you encounter hearing-related problems. Also, to maintain the circulation required for healthy hearing, exercising regularly is a good idea.
To protect your hearing, you can also take common-sense measures. Turn down the volume on the television, your smartphone when using earbuds, and the car radio. Protect your ears with earplugs if you indulge in loud activities or know you’re going to attend an event with high noise levels.
Treating Hearing Loss
Hearing loss may be so gradual that you might not notice it immediately. When you think you might be losing your hearing, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do people complain that you’re not listening to them?
- Are you always telling others to repeat themselves?
- Do you often think others are mumbling?
- Do you have trouble following more than two people’s conversations?
- Have people commented that you watch Tv at too high a volume?
- In noisy environments, do you have trouble following conversations?
If you replied yes to more than one of these questions, you should get your hearing checked to make sure your hearing isn’t compromised.
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
When you’re ready to get your hearing test, come and talk to us! The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids, and we have a variety to suit any lifestyle and budget. Fitted appropriately by a hearing professional, hearing aids can help you follow conversations and stay connected to your loved ones. To schedule an appointment, contact us today!