Check Your Hearing This November for American Diabetes Month

November 5, 2021
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Have you been diagnosed with diabetes? If you have, it is important to note that this can increase the risk of hearing loss significantly. You may not consider hearing loss as serious a condition like diabetes, but the truth is that the two conditions can affect each other more than you may initially suspect. This and every November is American Diabetes Month – a time to stress the importance of addressing and spreading awareness around this chronic condition.

Understanding Diabetes

It is estimated that in the US, 34.2 million people are affected by diabetes and that number is expected to rise to 1 in 3 people in the next 30 years. Even more alarming, the CDC estimates that 88 million people suffer from the early signs of diabetes, known as prediabetes, which encompasses 34% of the population. Understanding the many risks caused by diabetes is key to slowing down the spread. Doctors believe the continued rise in diabetes cases has to do with the industrialization of the world, with less access to whole foods, more exposure to food products with processed sugar, and less physical activity due to developments in technology. When we understand how to diagnose and detect this serious disease, we can reduce the growing number of people suffering from this condition.

How Diabetes Affects the Body

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin to properly distribute glucose, commonly known as blood sugar, into the cells, throughout our body. Glucose is essential for providing energy throughout the body. While there are a few different types of diabetes, type 2 encompasses 90 percent of diabetes cases and is usually developed later in life. When glucose is not properly absorbed or insufficient, it can cause heart disease, nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness, and the need for amputation. It can also cause hearing loss.

A Meta-Analysis on Hearing Loss and Diabetes

Hearing loss in diabetics is a very common issue. People with diabetes are 2.15 times more likely to suffer from hearing loss compared to those without the condition. In 2011, a meta-analysis based in Japan was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. It examined 13 previous studies published between 1977 and 2011, exploring the connection between the two chronic conditions.

The study revealed that those 60 and younger with diabetes were 2.61 times more likely to have hearing loss, while the risk for those older than 60 was 1.58 times higher.

“Our findings support routine hearing screenings for people with diabetes starting at an earlier age than for people without the disease.” Explains Professor Hirohito Sone, Department of Internal Medicine, Niigata University School of Medicine, Niigata, Japan. “From a preventive healthcare perspective, this is very important because we know that when left untreated, hearing loss can exacerbate and perhaps even lead to other health problems, such as depression and dementia, making the diabetes burden even greater.”.

How Diabetes Affects Hearing

The ear is a delicate structure, dependent on the precise functioning of the nerves and blood vessels, to send sound from the ears to the brain. Diabetes is suspected to damage the small blood vessels which support the inner ear, causing permanent hearing damage. While many other parts of the body can account for and draw blood vessels from other areas, the ears are not so adaptable. The hair cells of the inner ear rely on the constant circulation of blood, to maintain optimal hearing and when high glucose levels inhibit this, a patient is left with permanent hearing damage.

Effects of Hearing Loss

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, it is important to treat hearing health as part of treatment for diabetes. Untreated hearing loss can cause communication issues which result in loneliness, chronic depression, cognitive decline, lack of mobility, and under-activity. This can inhibit a person’s ability to stay active which in turn, further exacerbates the effects of diabetes.

Treating Hearing Loss

While hearing loss is permanent, it can be treated using hearing aids. These amazing electronic devices amplify sounds you struggle with, decreasing issues concerning communication, mobility, and cognitive decline. The sooner you catch a hearing loss, the sooner you can start to rebuild or prevent the many dangerous side effects of the condition. Start this November by taking action for your hearing health and for protecting yourself against diabetes. The first step is simple. Schedule a hearing test today!