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Hearing Loss and Diabetes

How are the two related?

The link between Hearing Loss & Diabetes has been speculated since the 1960s, and several researchers have contributed towards explaining the correlation. It has been found that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease.

According to a study from 2008 conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they found:

Among the diabetic participants, 54% had suffered a loss in hearing high-frequency sounds. In non-diabetic participants, only 32% were affected. They tested over 4,700 participants in this study.
Senior author Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), states, “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.”

Having considered these facts, if you are diabetic, it is wise to have your hearing tested regularly.

Signs of hearing loss

  • Thinking that others are mumbling
  • Difficulty in interpreting what others are saying
  • Frequently asking people around you to repeat themselves
  • Trouble following conversations that include more than one person
  • Turning up the TV or music volume so loud that it irritates those nearby
  • Facing problems in hearing in noisy environments like public gatherings

The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation states the following 3 major types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes

In this condition, the patient’s body is unable to produce the amount of insulin required for the movement of glucose into cells. This happens as a result of an autoimmune system in which the human body attacks the beta cells producing the insulin hormone.

Type 2 diabetes

Patients diagnosed with this type of diabetes can produce their own insulin but the quantity of insulin produced isn’t sufficient to move glucose into the cells.

Gestational diabetes

This type is generally seen in pregnant women and is usually diagnosed after a female gives birth. In this condition, the female’s hormones are resistant to insulin. Elevated blood sugar levels might lead to difficulty in hearing.

What if I don’t have the symptoms of hearing loss?

Hearing loss is a slow process and hence you may tend to dismiss the symptoms as a factor of your environment or people around you, rather than a defect in your ability to hear. Symptoms show up through occurrences like having to ask people to repeat themselves, or finding it difficult to hear at noisy places, or turning up the volume of the TV too louder than normal. It is more likely that your family members and friends will notice your loss of hearing before you recognize it.

To be sure, you can take our easy Online Hearing Assessment test here.

What should I do if I show signs of hearing loss?

You should consult with an audiologist for a full hearing exam. Based on your extent of hearing loss and your lifestyle, your audiologist can recommend the right way forward.

As a diabetic, can I prevent hearing loss?

While the direct connection between diabetes and hearing isn’t established, researchers suggest that high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels in your inner ear, leading to hearing loss.

Along with getting your hearing checked every year, you can do the following:

>Exercise daily
>Manage your weight
>Monitor your blood sugar levels
>Work on reducing hypertension
>Be regular with your checkups and medication

Remember, early treatment is a key factor in prevention and recovery.

How to protect your hearing if you’re diagnosed with diabetes?

  • Turning down the volume of personal electronic devices, TV and car radios can protect your ears from excessive noise. Avoid engaging in noisy hobbies as much as you can. Even if you do, consider putting in headphones or disposable earplugs to minimize the effect of these devices on your hearing.
  • Make sure to incorporate a certain amount of exercise into your daily routine. Your blood flow and circulation improve with even a moderate amount of regular exercise. Talk to your endocrinologist and audiologist for exercise recommendations.
  • Maintain an appropriate weight according to your BMI. Excessive body weight exerts pressure on the heart, making it difficult to pump blood evenly and effectively to all parts of your body, including your ears.

As a diabetic or pre-diabetic, we recommended getting your hearing checked once every year. It is also a good practice to keep both, your diabetes doctor and your audiologist in the loop with your condition and progress, so they have a better picture of your complete Anchorhealth.

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