Diabetes and Your Hearing

Most people know that diabetes can affect eyesight and extremities such as the feet, but did you know it’s also one of the leading causes of hearing loss in adults?

Good hearing depends on small blood vessels delivering nourishment to the inner ear. Scientists believe that over time the high blood glucose levels of diabetes can damage the sound receptor cells, blood vessels, and nerves, diminishing the ability to hear. According to the National Institutes of Health, hearing loss is about twice as common in people with diabetes than those without the disease, which is troublesome as diabetes is very common and getting more so. The International Diabetes Federation reports that 366 million people worldwide had diabetes in 2011 and by 2030, this figure will rise to 552 million.

Yet, unlike eye exams, hearing evaluations are often not even discussed in the routine care for people with diabetes. That’s a shame because results from the hearing evaluation by an audiologist can sometimes alert the physician to a diagnosis of diabetes if other tests results are borderline. Research suggests that by keeping the disease under control, people can help minimize potential hearing damage, so early detection is important.

The consequences of neglecting to do a hearing evaluation can be significant in other ways. Numerous studies link un-managed hearing loss to emotional conditions including depression, impaired memory, and diminished overall health. Researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging even found that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia than those who retain their hearing.

Diabetes can affect your daily life in many ways. If hearing loss is one of them, it’s good to know that the majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. Since hearing aids have been getting smaller and stylish and improving in sound quality, more people are happy to use them. As far as treating a health issue goes, improving your hearing is relatively easy and effective. Studies show hearing aid users have significant improvements in quality of life and mental and functional health. So have a consultation with our audiologists soon.

For more information on diabetes and hearing loss, visit www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/seniors/hearing-loss/. Portions of this article are credited to the Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit existing to educate people on hearing.

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