Test Your Hearing

This November, Test Your Hearing in Honor of American Diabetes Month

Dr. Marina E. Kade Hearing Health

Dr. Marina E. Kade

Every November, American Diabetes Month is conducted to promote awareness and assist those living with this condition. Diabetes education events and workshops are given to educate people about the disease, answer questions, and assist individuals to learn how to avoid or manage diabetes.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017 says that more than 100 million US adults now have diabetes or prediabetes. If you have this prevalent disease, you probably know how dangerous it can be to your health if you don’t take care of it right. 

What you might not know is that diabetes can make you more likely to lose your hearing. Keep reading to learn more about this surprising link.

What is diabetes?

In a nutshell, diabetes makes it hard for the body to make insulin or respond to it. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get to the cells and be used by them. Because of this, glucose levels stay high in the blood, which can lead to severe problems in the long run. But diabetes can be controlled with a healthy diet and medicine to lessen its damage to the body.

According to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, the number of Americans with this disease is increasing. In the last ten years, the number of Americans with this disease has grown by more than half.

What is the link between diabetes and hearing loss?

Two recent studies looked closely at the link between diabetes and hearing loss. Both found that people with diabetes are more likely to have hearing problems than people who don’t have diabetes.

Scientists need to do more research before saying why diabetes makes it hard to hear, but one theory is that it has to do with circulation. High blood glucose levels can damage the small blood vessels in the inner ear, which means less blood gets to the essential sensory hair cells. These hair cells are essential for hearing because they turn sounds into electrical signals sent along the auditory nerve to the brain. The brain then figures out what the signals mean. When there isn’t enough blood flow to the hair cells, the cells get hurt or die and can’t be fixed by the body. This leads to permanent loss of hearing.

What the studies show

In a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2008, people with diabetes were found to have mild to moderate hearing loss more than twice as often as those without diabetes. Hearing loss at high frequencies was more common in people with diabetes (54%) than those without diabetes (32%).

The NIH’s findings were backed up by a separate study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2012. This study looked at data from 13 studies with more than 20,000 people. The study showed that people with diabetes were more likely to lose their hearing than people without the disease, no matter how old they were.

How to keep your hearing in good shape if you have diabetes

If you have diabetes, you can do a few important things to protect the hearing you still have, even if you don’t have any signs of hearing loss. Remember that if you have hearing loss, there are proven ways to treat it, like hearing aids that can prevent it from affecting your life and relationships badly.

Here are a few ways to protect your hearing health and manage diabetes diet, exercise, and, if necessary, medication.

Protect your ears from noise damage. Because diabetes can weaken the inner ear’s hair cells and is more prone to damage, you should be careful about loud noises. Keep an eye on how loud your music player, TV, car stereo, and home stereo systems are. As a general rule, the volume is too high if you or others have to raise your voice to be heard.

Make it a priority to work out. Even a little exercise is a great way to improve your circulation and get more blood to your inner ears’ essential structures. Talk to your doctor about what kind of exercise is best for your health.

If you need to, get help with managing your weight. When you’re overweight, it’s harder for your heart to send blood to your ears, which can hurt your hearing. Diabetes symptoms can also be made worse by being overweight. 

Make sure your hearing is checked often. Staying on top of your hearing health when you have diabetes means getting your hearing checked regularly. Also, tell your hearing health professional about diabetes as part of your medical history.

Let us help you treat your hearing!

Diabetes doesn’t always cause hearing loss, but it does make it more likely. Because of this, getting regular hearing exams and taking other steps to protect your hearing health is especially important. 

A thorough evaluation will show us how well you hear now and help us determine if you could benefit from hearing aids. We can also talk about long-term ways to protect your hearing. Set up your meeting this American Diabetes Month.