The Connection Between Diabetes and Hearing Loss
It seems like there's hardly a part of the body unaffected by diabetes.
The link between diabetes and health issues such as hearing loss, blindness, neuropathy, heart disease, and kidney failure is well known. Hearing loss, however, is a fairly recent addition to the list of conditions that can be impacted by diabetes.
Blood Vessels and Nerves
Often associated with legs and feet, diabetic nerve damage can impact nerves anywhere, a reason often given for the likelihood of a connection between diabetes and hearing loss. High blood glucose levels can also damage blood vessels and reduce the amount of insulin delivered throughout the body, which extends to important parts of the ears, possibly providing another reason to make a connection with hearing loss.
According to the American Diabetes Association, hearing loss is nearly 15 percent worse in women with diabetes than men. When age-related hearing issues are factored into the equation, this puts seniors at the highest risk of experiencing some degree of hearing loss due to diabetes.
Hearing Loss and Blood Sugar
A study conducted by the Henry Ford Clinic found that diabetics with optimal blood sugar levels, defined as A1C under 9 percent, had better hearing than subjects whose levels were higher. Researchers believe changes in nerves caused when blood sugar levels fluctuate may extend to nerves within the ear canal and contribute to hearing loss.
Gradual Hearing Loss
Hearing loss from diabetes tends to be gradual rather than sudden, making it difficult to detect without confirmation from a hearing test. Oftentimes, people experiencing hearing loss, whether or not they have diabetes, have difficulty understanding what's being said, not hearing the actual words. Signs of hearing loss typically include:
• Requesting frequent repetition of parts of conversations
• Difficulty hearing in situations where there is background noise
• Having trouble hearing women and children (due to the higher pitch of tones)
• Frequently turning up the volume on the TV even when others in the room complain it's too loud
• Ringing in the ears
Preventative and Proactive Measures
Diabetics can reduce the risk of developing hearing loss by keeping blood sugar levels under control. The American Diabetes Association recommends maintaining A1C levels under 7 percent, although other sources suggest that anything under 10 percent is within the acceptable range.
Seeking Treatment Sooner Rather Than Later
Some people with hearing loss have a tendency to hide that fact by making excuses for not hearing bits and pieces of conversations or reading lips to make up for gaps in comprehension.
Regardless of the factors contributing to hearing loss, delaying treatment can complicate efforts to minimize damage.
Affecting approximately 30 million Americas, or roughly 10 percent of the population, diabetes has also been linked to erectile dysfunction and depression. While there are many possible causes of hearing loss other than diabetes, the possible connection does provide an added incentive for diabetics to monitor all aspects of their health.