Hearing loss has many well-known causes: excessive noise, otosclerosis, Meniere’s disease, and aging. Did you know that Diabetes is also a leading cause of hearing loss? Recent research has discovered that diabetics are about two times as likely to have hearing loss as non-diabeitcs. Since diabetes affects a large proportion of the US population this research is something to consider if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic.
What is the connection?
Though it is not yet well-understood, hearing loss may be a lesser-known complication of diabetes, and as diabetes becomes more widespread, hearing loss may also become much more common in the population.
A study performed in 2008 by the NIH (National Institutes of Health) studied two groups of people in a ratio that reflects the US incidence of diabetes. Of 399 adults participating, hearing loss of low- to mid-frequency sounds was found in 21 percent of the diabetics, and high-frequency hearing loss was found in 54 percent of diabetics, which is compared with 32 percent of non-diabetics.
What about pre-diabetes?
Pre-diabetics, or those who have elevated blood sugar numbers and are just on the edge of becoming diabetic, were found to have a 30 percent higher chance of developing hearing loss than people who were found to have normal blood sugar levels.
Researchers are not sure exactly why elevated blood sugar levels affect hearing in this way, but they speculate that the capillaries and nerves of the inner ear may be damaged by high blood sugar similar to the way the kidneys and eyes are damaged.
The American Diabetes Association estimates that 30 million people in the US have diabetes. 34.5 million people in the US have some type of hearing loss, so diabetes and hearing loss are two of the top health concerns in America.
If you have high blood sugar levels or have already tested positive for diabetes, it is important to understand the risks of hearing loss so you can prevent future issues.
What can I do?
If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, watch for the common symptoms of hearing loss, such as difficulty hearing people talking on the phone or in noisy environments, often asking people to repeat themselves, listening to the TV or radio at high volumes, or thinking people are mumbling. If you start to experience any of these symptoms, talk to your audiologist and have a hearing screening done.
Regular hearing screenings can also ensure any hearing damage is caught at the earliest stages and further progression can be slowed or prevented.
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