When you think of diabetes, hearing might be the last thing to come to mind. Diabetes is a condition related to blood sugar, so it is not immediately apparent how your hearing might be connected. Well, if you are wondering about the nature of the condition, you’re not alone. Researchers are continuing to investigate this connection, and the mechanism connecting diabetes with hearing loss is unclear. However, at a purely statistical level, those who have diabetes are much more likely to develop hearing loss than those who do not have diabetes. In honor of American Diabetes Month, let’s take a look at this connection in the data, pointing us to a better understanding of both hearing loss and diabetes. The action you can take right away is to get your hearing checked, and our hearing health professionals can lead you through the process of diagnosis.
Diabetes and Hearing Loss
Let’s take a look at two recent studies that have demonstrated the connection between hearing loss and diabetes. Hearing loss is twice as common among those who have diabetes than those who do not have the disease. This staggering number has led doctors and researchers to inquire about how the conditions are connected. Another recent study took a look at the much larger group of people who have pre-diabetes. Among the 88 million people with this diagnosis, rates of hearing loss are 30 percent higher than among those who do not have elevated blood glucose levels. With these two facts in mind, we can take a moment to consider some of the possible connections between them.
Hearing Loss and Other Systems
The body is an intricately woven web of connections between systems, organs, and cells. Although many health practitioners specialize in one aspect of the body, they will be quick to tell you that each is connected to the body as the gears of a single machine. Hearing loss is connected to the other systems of the body in precisely this manner. When the cardiovascular system is compromised, for example, the tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear called stereocilia can be deprived of the oxygenated blood they need to thrive and survive. Researchers wonder if the connection between hearing and diabetes might work similarly. When the blood carries a high glucose level, that blood might not be able to supply what the inner ear needs to survive. One theory is that the tiny blood vessels of the inner ear can be damaged by high blood glucose levels. Diabetes can have a similar effect on the eyes or kidneys, so researchers hypothesize that the same effect may occur in the ears. Another theory holds that the relatively high level of glucose in the blood prohibits that bloodstream from carrying enough oxygen and nutrients. The inner ear requires ample nutrition for the stereocilia to survive, so diabetes might be getting in the way of that nutritive effect of the bloodstream.
Research and Treatment
As researchers continue to explore the ways that hearing loss is related to diabetes, they continue to urge diagnosis and treatment in the meantime. The first step if you are concerned about your hearing health is to schedule a hearing test. What better way to celebrate American Diabetes Month than taking a proactive step toward your health and wellbeing? The hearing test is short, painless, and simple, and the most common type of test, called pure tone audiometry, simply asks participants to gesture when they hear a sound. These sounds range in volume and pitch, so your test administrator can determine which sounds are more or less difficult for you to hear.
Once you have a thorough diagnosis in hand, your practitioner can recommend the right set of hearing aids for your needs. If you are not ready for hearing aids, then you can have a baseline measurement in place for the future. If you are ready for hearing aids, your hearing health professional will guide you through fitting, training, and adjusting to your new set of aids. Particularly if you have a diagnosis of pre-diabetes or diabetes, it is important to get a test and to connect with treatment when the time is right.