Do you suffer from diabetes or have unusually high blood sugar levels? November is National Diabetes Month, a campaign to educate and raise awareness of this condition affecting 34 million people in the US alone. In the next 30 years it is projected that if diabetes is not addressed on a social and economic level, the condition could affect 1 in 3 people. There are several severe health risks associated with the failure to address issues with diabetes and as hearing health care specialists we stress the importance of addressing hearing issues that are associated with diabetes.
Studies on the Connection Between Hearing and Diabetes
A 2009 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in the United States those with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss than people without diabetes. Even if you are not at a stage of full-blown diabetes the risk to your hearing is 30 percent higher than if your blood sugar is at a safe level.
How Are Diabetes and Hearing Loss Linked?
The connection is not completely confirmed however the high prevalence of hearing loss in diabetic patients points to cell damage as a likely cause. The most common type of diabetes – Type 2 – occurs when the body’s cells can not properly absorb glucose, also known as blood sugar, into the cells throughout the body. Insulin is a hormone created in the pancreas which aids in the absorption of cells. This damage can create damage to the extremities, heart disease, nerve damage, kidney failure, and blindness. While the ears collect sound, they transmit the sounds to the brain to be fully comprehended. This helps us place sound and understand speech. Sound is transmitted to the brain using tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia which rely on a healthy and steady supply to maintain health. When cells are damaged it can create permanent hearing loss.
What Are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss?
If you already know you have diabetes, then it is important to ensure that you test for hearing loss regularly. Hearing loss commonly develops slowly over many years, so many people don’t even realize they have a problem until it has progressed to the point of struggling to hear, even in the most ideal of situations. The most common signs of hearing loss are difficulty in following conversations. You may feel lost and appear uninterested or disconnected from others. Often it is the people closest to you who notice before you. They may notice that you need to turn up the TV or phone to full volume or struggle to hear over background noise in a busy store or restaurant. If someone suggests that you have a hearing loss it is a good idea to take it seriously. Untreated hearing loss can create disconnection in social situations which leads to chronic depression, anxiety, loneliness, and cognitive decline, paving the way for dementia.
Preventing Diabetes-Related Hearing Loss
When damage occurs it cannot be reversed, however, it can be effectively treated with hearing aids. These amazing devices amplify sounds you struggle with so you can participate in conversations with family, friends, and co-workers again. These devices have been found to significantly reduce the risk of cognitive decline and allow people to feel connected once again to the life they love.
Managing Your Diabetes
If you have diabetes or the early signs it is important to keep your blood sugar levels in check. In addition to regular testing of your blood and taking medication prescribed by your doctor, habitually, there are lifestyle changes that can reduce the severity of the condition. Finding a 30-minute exercise routine to raise your heart rate can make a significant difference. It is important to find one that works for you, so you are sure to do it. In addition, a diet rich in vegetables, whole foods, and lean meats, which avoids processed sugars, can help keep your blood sugars low and your hearing safe.
Schedule a Hearing Test
This November is a perfect time to schedule a hearing test. If you know you have diabetes and haven’t addressed your hearing, you are putting the quality of life at risk. Schedule a hearing test and get control of your health now!