If you or a loved one has diabetes, you can be twice as likely to also develop hearing loss. Research shows that diabetes increases the risk of hearing loss, a chronic medical condition that reduces the capacity to perceive and process sound. According to the American Diabetes Association, over 34 million people have diabetes in the U.S and 1.5 million people are newly diagnosed every year. Diabetes can impact health and wellness in different ways and studies show that it can contribute to hearing loss. So if you have diabetes or are prediabetic, it is important to implement ways to protect your hearing health as much as possible.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Diabetes
Extensive research shows that numerous medical conditions can increase the risk of hearing loss and this includes diabetes. Studies show that there is a correlation between diabetes and hearing loss development. This includes a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that looked at the relationship between hearing loss and diabetes. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health did this by collecting data on 5,000 people with and without diabetes. This data included results from hearing tests as well as a questionnaire that assessed diabetes. After analyzing this information, researchers found that among people with diabetes:
- 21% experienced a mild or greater hearing loss of low or mid-frequency sounds compared to 9% of adults without diabetes.
- 54% experienced a mild or greater hearing loss of high-frequency sounds compared to 32% of adults without diabetes.
- Prediabetic adults were 30% more likely to experience hearing loss compared to those without diabetes.
These findings show that there is a significant link between diabetes and hearing loss. Participants were more than twice as likely to experience low to mid-frequency hearing loss compared to those without diabetes. This identifies hearing loss as a potential complication of diabetes.
Impact of Diabetes on Hearing Health
How exactly can diabetes affect hearing health? Well, it is important to know a little bit more about diabetes. Diabetes involves the process of how food is converted into energy. Food is broken down into glucose (or sugar) which is released into the bloodstream. Insulin is released from the pancreas to allow the body’s cells to absorb the glucose and use it as energy. Diabetes describes either the body not producing enough insulin or the body not using the insulin that is produced effectively. This leads to excess sugar in the bloodstream which can damage blood vessels as well as nerves throughout the body, including in the inner ear.
Damage to blood vessels and/or nerves in the inner ear can impact how sound is absorbed and processed. The sensory cells in the inner ear send auditory information to the brain, a critical step in how we hear. The brain is then able to further analyze the signals it receives and assign meaning to them which is what allows us to understand what we hear. Restricted blood flow, damaged blood vessels, and nerves can strain this essential function, reducing auditory input the brain receives which can contribute to hearing loss.
Tips to Protect Your Hearing Health
It is important to practice ways you can protect your hearing health. Integrating the following tips can reduce your risk of hearing loss and best support your hearing health:
- Prioritize management of diabetes. It is important to be taking all medications, safety precautions, and following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor to best care for your diabetes.
- Have hearing tests regularly. Having your hearing checked regularly is important, especially if you experience an increased risk of developing hearing loss. Hearing tests are a painless and non-invasive diagnostic tool used to measure your hearing capacity and identify your hearing needs.
- Reduce exposure to loud noise. Another common cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise. Reduce your exposure by wearing hearing protection (headphones, earplugs, etc.), maintaining lower volume settings on electronic devices, and taking listening breaks.
Incorporating these safety measures can effectively protect your hearing health. You can start prioritizing your hearing health today by contacting us to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. Our team and services are invested in transforming your hearing health and wellness.