The Link Between Hearing Loss and Diabetes

If you are one of the millions of people with diabetes then you may need to get your hearing checked. Studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop a hearing problem compared to those without the disease.

For several decades, health experts have explored the possible relationship between diabetes and hearing loss. There has been growing evidence in recent years that strongly suggests that diabetes contributes to hearing loss.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes prevents the body from being able to produce and manage insulin correctly. This causes glucose to build up in the bloodstream rather than feeding the body’s cells, which is what it should do. In severe cases, this can lead to kidney failure, blindness, heart problems, stroke and amputations.

There are three types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 is when an autoimmune situation causes the body to attack the beta cells which produce the hormone, stopping the body from being able to produce insulin that moves glucose into cells.
  • Type 2 is where people can produce insulin, but they may not be able to produce enough to move glucose into the cells.
  • Gestational diabetes is where hormones make the body’s cells more resistant to insulin and often developed by pregnant women. It generally goes following the baby’s birth.

All three types of diabetes lead to a rise in blood sugar levels which you must manage.

Hearing loss and diabetes

There have been much research into the link between hearing loss and diabetes. Most studies agree that regardless of their age, people with diabetes are more likely to have some degree of hearing loss, compared to those without the disease. This is believed to be as a result of high blood glucose levels which can cause damage to the small blood vessels in your inner ear.

In your inner ear, there are hair cells which depend on on good circulation to be able to maintain your health. These hair cells are also responsible for translating the sounds your ear collects. These are sent along the auditory nerve to the brain for you to interpret as an identifiable sound. As sensory hair cells don’t regenerate, once they get damaged or simply die out, your hearing becomes permanently affected.

Symptoms of hearing loss

If you haven’t noticed your hearing decreasing, then it may be that your hearing is fine or you’ve simply not noticed its gradual decline. You may have hearing loss if you:

  • Find it hard to hear other people clearly
  • Often have to ask people to repeat themselves
  • Have your TV or music at a high volume
  • Struggle to hear on the telephone
  • Don’t hear the doorbell
  • Listen to music or watch TV with a high volume
  • Find it difficult hearing the telephone ringing or the doorbell or alarm clock

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to contact a licensed hearing care professional for a hearing test and evaluation.

Other causes of your hearing loss

If you do have both diabetes and hearing loss, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one has affected the other. There are a number of reasons you may be losing your hearing, such as:

  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Ageing
  • Family history
  • Build-up of earwax
  • Infection
  • Structural problem in the ear
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Certain medications

Hearing loss treatments

A hearing test and evaluation will be able to determine your degree of hearing loss and which treatment option would best suit your hearing loss and lifestyle. There are a number of ways to treat hearing loss, including:

  • Hearing aids
  • Cochlear implants
  • Medication (such as antibiotics for an infection)
  • Removal of earwax (or other blockage in the ear)

While certain forms of hearing loss could be temporary, early treatment is often key to improving your hearing.

Protecting your hearing if you have diab

Although sensorineural hearing loss may be permanent, there are things you can do to protect your remaining hearing. The best way to avoid hearing loss and other complications is to:

  • Follow your medication plan
  • Turn down the volume on personal electronic devices, television and car radio
  • Protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss with headphones or earplugs
  • Incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine
  • Maintain an appropriate weight
  • Closely monitor your blood sugar levels
  • Have your hearing checked every year and ensure you tell your audiologist about your diabetes diagnosis

Having diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean your hearing is or will become impaired. However, effectively managing your diabetes and having regular hearing tests will not only help to protect your overall health, but also help to protect your hearing health, too.

With you on your journey to better hearing.

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