Diabetes changes the body’s ability to properly make and manage insulin. This, in turn, causes glucose to just stay in the bloodstream instead of being used to fuel body cells which is its purpose. The number of individuals diagnosed with diabetes has been steadily increasing. In the last 10 years, there has been a 50% in those diagnosed.
Type 1, Type 2 and gestational are the three types of diabetes. Each type involves glucose changes, but gestational in mothers typically disappears after the baby is delivered. All three types involve an increase in blood sugar levels which have to 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 immune issues involving infections.
A number of studies in the past several years have looked at the link between diabetes and hearing loss. A National Institutes of Health test done in 2008 showed 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% and the rate for non-diabetics and hearing loss was 32%. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism bolstered the findings of the 2008 study. The 2012 study reviewed results from 13 separate studies involving 20,000 participants. That larger study concluded diabetics are more likely to have hearing loss than those without the disease regardless of their age range.
Scientists hypothesize diabetes impacts hearing because high glucose levels damage the small, fragile blood vessels in the inner ear. Like all body parts, the hair cells in the inner ear need a good blood supply to stay healthy. Although tiny, these cells have a crucial job, they process the sounds our ears collect into electrical impulses. The impulses are then travel on the auditory nerve to the brain and the brain turns them into recognizable sound. The hair cells, or stereocilia, do not have the capacity to in the event they are damaged or destroyed. Once they are gone or damaged, hearing is permanently affected. Luckily, the resulting sensorineural hearing loss can be treated with hearing devices such as hearing aids.
Hearing loss due to cell damage or loss is permanent, but also treatable. However, you should still take care to preserve your remaining hearing if you have diabetes.
*Keep the volume your personal electronic devices, as well as the television and the car radio, at a moderate level. Protect your ears from excessive noise by using noise cancelling headphones or disposable ear plugs. Snow blowers, lawn mowers, power drills, motorcycles, chainsaws and construction equipment all make noise over 85 decibels.
*Get moving! Make exercise part of your daily routine. Just 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 what exercise that is appropriate for you.
*Keep an eye on 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.
When the professionals at Glendora Hearing Aids & Audiology do an initial hearing evaluation, a medical history is part of the consultation. If you have diabetes, it is important to remember to share that with us so we can take that into consideration. If that is part of your family medical history, it is also important to share that with us. If you believe you may have some hearing loss due to a diabetic condition, please don’t wait and don’t think you should just “adjust.” You will miss far too much if you don’t keep track of your hearing health. Contact us today.