Diabetes alone can be a difficult condition to live with and may cause a variety of side effects. One of those side effects is hearing loss and most don’t realize it is even related to their condition.
Diabetic patients are twice as likely to experience hearing loss compared to those without the condition. Approximately 37 million Americans have diabetes and it is estimated that 34.5 million Americans also suffer from hearing loss. Many people will experience both diagnoses simultaneously.
How diabetes affects your hearing
According to the CDC, Diabetes is "a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy." When you eat, your body breaks down sugar into glucose. In response to increased blood sugar (your blood sugar always rises when you eat), your pancreas releases insulin. The essential function of insulin is to allow blood sugar into your cells for energy production.
The World Health Organization defines hearing loss as "A person who is not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing – hearing thresholds of 20 dB or better in both ears – is said to have hearing loss. Depending on the severity, hearing loss can affect one or both ears, leading to difficulty hearing conversational speech or loud noises.
How are these two diagnoses linked? Diabetes can damage nerves throughout your body - including your ears. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the inner ear's small blood vessels and nerves. In the same way, low blood sugar can damage the nerve signals traveling from the inner ear to the brain over time, leading to hearing loss.
How to prevent hearing loss from diabetes
Hearing loss can happen slowly over time, so it can be hard to notice at first. Often, family members and those closest to the person with hearing loss are the first to notice. Unfortunately, like diabetes, you can't reverse hearing loss.
It's possible to live a normal, fun and healthy life with diabetes and not allow it to dictate your routine. You just need to learn proper diabetes management to take control of your health. Follow these tips to help protect against further damage to your hearing:
Keep your blood sugar levels as close to the target as possible.
Check your hearing annually.
Avoid other causes of hearing loss, including loud noise exposure.
Ask your doctor whether any medications you're taking can damage your hearing, see what other options are available.
Hearing health is essential to one's quality of life, especially as you age. Additionally, hearing loss could be an indicator of underlying health issues. That's why we advocate fiercely for hearing health education and access for our patients.
If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have experienced hearing loss make an appointment today.
World Health Organization