Have you been diagnosed with diabetes? If so, there are many modifications to your life and health practices that have become modified, but is caring for your hearing one of them? Many studies show that people with diabetes can be twice as likely to develop hearing loss.
This November is American Diabetes Month, as a time to shine the spotlight on the importance of treating this devastating disease, affecting 32.4 million people in the US alone. Diabetes is projected to rise in the next three decades, so awareness and prevention are more important than ever. This year’s focus is on prediabetes and prevention. Of the 88 million people with prediabetes in the US, it is speculated that 84 percent don’t even know they have it. Identifying and preventing it early could help stop the many health complications associated with diabetes – including hearing loss
Understanding Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition that people experience today Impacting, nearly 1 in 8 people in the US. There are several causes, the most common ones being changes in the inner ear due to old age, exposure to loud noise, head injuries, some medications, and chemicals as well as infection. All of these factors can contribute to sensorineural hearing loss, in which the cells of the inner ear are damaged.
While we collect audio waves with our ears, it is actually our brain that must receive and interpret these sounds to decipher speech, identify sounds and determine the location in which they are coming from. The ears send sound to the auditory cortex in the brain via tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear called stereocilia. Stereocilia are incredibly delicate and can be damaged easily, causing degrees of hearing loss depending on the severity of the injury.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss often comes on slowly over years, to the point where many don’t know they have it. It is often the people close to you who will notice it first. Common signs of sensorineural hearing loss include:
- A buzzing or ringing (tinnitus) after exposure to loud sound
- Sounds and speech sound muffled
- You frequently must ask others to repeat themselves.
- Trouble hearing speech amongst background noise
- Feeling confused or withdrawn during conversation.
- Others complain you listen to the TV or radio too loud when it seems fine to you.
The Dangers of Hearing Loss
Diabetes has several dangerous side effects such as blindness, heart disease, risk of stroke, kidney failure, and amputation of legs or feet. Hearing loss may seem like the least of your worries, but it is actually important to take it seriously. What begins as simple miscommunications can quickly grow into rifts in your personal relationships and loss of earnings at work. Constant hearing issues will cause you to feel withdrawn and exhausted – many choose to avoid social interaction altogether when they can. The result is underactivity, depression, isolation, anxiety, a greater risk of falls, and cognitive decline. If you have diabetes one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health is to stay active. However, the lack of mobility which hearing loss often enforces can cause many to put themselves at risk for more severe diabetes symptoms down the line.
Link Between Diabetes & Hearing Loss
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, analyzed data from a national health survey that included results from hearing tests and a diabetes questionnaire for over 11,000 participants, ages 20-69. The study was able to determine that patients with diabetes were at a higher risk for hearing loss.
- 54% of diabetic patients had high-frequency hearing loss compared to 32% of people without diabetes.
- 21% of patients with diabetes had mid-frequency hearing loss in comparison with 9% of people without.
While there is no consensus as to why there is a higher prevalence of hearing loss in diabetic patients, it is believed that it is due to the damage the disease causes to blood vessels throughout the body. The stereocilia of the ear depend on a healthy supply of blood to stay healthy. Constriction and damage to blood cells could be the correlation as to why diabetes increases the risk for hearing loss.
Protect Your Hearing Health
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, then addressing hearing loss must be part of diabetes prevention. This November take action! Fight diabetes by scheduling a hearing exam today.