If you are one of the 30 million Americans who have diabetes, take note – it would benefit you to keep a close watch on your hearing. Research shows that diabetics are more than twice as likely to develop hearing loss than those who do not have diabetes. That’s why it is important to keep a close watch on your hearing. Regular hearing evaluations at Worth Hearing keep you abreast of your current hearing abilities and can help detect the presence or advancement of a hearing loss.
Understanding diabetesDiabetes hampers the body’s ability to produce and manage insulin properly. This causes glucose to build up in the bloodstream, when the glucose should be used as fuel for your body’s cells. The number of those diagnosed with diabetes is increasing – there’s been a 50% jump in the last 10 years. There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational. Each involves glucose issues, but gestational diabetes typically disappears after the baby is delivered. In all three types, there is an increase in blood sugar levels that must be managed. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure, and stroke. Symptoms include frequent urination, increased thirst and/or hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, concentration problems, and healing issues involving infections. Diabetes and hearing loss In recent years, two studies have examined the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss. A 2008 study was conducted by the National Institutes of Health. Participants with diabetes were more than twice as likely to have mild to moderate hearing loss than those who didn’t have the disease. Diabetics experienced high-frequency hearing loss at the rate of 54% where as non-diabetics experienced high-frequency hearing loss as the rate of 32%. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism supported the findings of the 2008 study. The 2012 study analyzed results from 13 individual studies involving 20,000 participants. The study concluded that diabetics were more likely to have hearing loss than those without the disease, regardless of their age range.
The connection between hearing loss and diabetesScientists suspect that diabetes impacts hearing because high glucose levels damage the small blood vessels in the inner ear. Like all body parts, the hair cells in the inner ear depend on good circulation to stay healthy. These tiny cells have a big job: they translate the noise our ears collect into electrical impulses. The impulses are then sent along the auditory nerve to the brain, which the brain then interprets as a recognizable sound. The hair cells, or stereocilia, do not regenerate or grow back if they are damaged or destroyed. Once they are gone or damaged, hearing is permanently affected. The good news is that the resulting sensorineural hearing loss can be treated with the prescription of hearing aids.
Protect your hearing if you have diabetesAlthough hearing loss due to cell damage or loss is permanent (but treatable), you should still take care to preserve your remaining hearing.
- Turn down the volume on your personal electronic devices, the television, and the car radio. Protect your ears from excessive noise by using noise cancelling headphones or disposable ear plugs. Excessive noise is anything over 85 decibels, and there are phone apps you can download that give you a noise decibel reading, which is especially helpful if you’re in noisy environments. Snow blowers, lawn mowers, power drills, motorcycles, chainsaws and construction equipment all make noise over 85 decibels.
- Make exercise part of your daily routine. A brisk walk will improve your circulation overall and that includes the blood flow to your ears. Consult your doctor if you have questions about the exercise that is appropriate for you.
- Watch your weight. Excessive weight makes it difficult for your heart to pump blood effectively and efficiently to all parts of your body – including your ears.