The CDC estimates that 37 million people have diabetes – 11.3% of the U.S. population. Every year, an estimated 1.5 million people are diagnosed with diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes can impact health in various ways including amplifying health risks. Research shows that diabetes can increase the risk of developing hearing loss, a permanent medical condition that reduces capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. Understanding more about how these conditions are related can help you protect your health and support your wellness.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Diabetes
Extensive research shows that several medical conditions can actually increase the risk of hearing loss. This includes diabetes, a medical condition that involves how the body processes glucose. A significant study that investigated the correlation between hearing loss and diabetes was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. This study involved researchers collecting and analyzing data for over 5,000 participants. Participants included people with and without diabetes who had their hearing capacities assessed.
Researchers found that among the participants with diabetes:
- 21% experienced a mild or greater hearing loss of low or mid-frequency sounds compared to 9% of participants without diabetes.
- 54% experienced a mild or greater hearing loss of high-frequency sounds compared to 32% of participants without diabetes.
- Adults with prediabetes had a 30% higher rate of hearing loss
This data highlights a significant link between diabetes and hearing loss. The leading research on this study, Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., stated: “Hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes. As diabetes becomes more common, the disease may become a more significant contributor to hearing loss.” These findings support further research that identifies diabetes as a risk factor or hearing loss.
Impact of Diabetes on Hearing
You are likely wondering how diabetes impacts hearing health. Diabetes impacts how the body converts food into energy which is a vital process. Food that we consume is broken down into sugar (glucose) which enters the bloodstream. The pancreas releases insulin to regulate blood sugar levels and ensure that levels aren’t high. Insulin sends a signal to the cells in the body to absorb glucose which is used as energy. Diabetes is characterized by the pancreas not producing adequate insulin or the insulin that is produced is not used effectively.
High levels of sugar in the bloodstream can have major consequences on health. It can damage blood vessels, nerves, restrict blood flow etc. This can lead to health complications including hearing loss. There are thousands of sensory cells in the inner ear which are critical to the process of hearing. These cells convert incoming soundwaves and send this auditory information to the brain. The brain is then able to continue processing this information and assigning meaning to sound signals which allows us to understand what we hear. Damaged nerves, blood vessels, flow in the ear can impair this process. It can reduce the capacity of the hair cells in the inner ear to carry out theri essential function, contributing to the development of hearing loss.
Tips to Protect Hearing Health
There are useful ways you can protect your hearing health. This is especially important for people with diabetes or for people who are prediabetic. The CDC estimates that 96 million people, ages 18 and older, have prediabetes. This is 38% of the adult population in the U.S. which highlights the importance of protecting hearing health! A few simple ways you can do this include:
- Have a hearing test. Hearing tests comprehensively assess your hearing capacities in both ears. Using a painless and noninvasive process, hearing healthcare specialists evaluate hearing abilities and identify any hearing loss as well as the degree of impairment present. Once your hearing needs are established, they are able to tailor treatment to meet those needs.
- Prioritize care for diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is important to take all the steps and implement the practices that best care for your health. This includes taking all prescribed medications, practicing safety measures, following regimens outlined by your doctor etc.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. This includes a hearing assessment which identifies your hearing needs.