According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 38 million people have diabetes in the United States. This means that 1 in 10 adults lives with this chronic condition and 1.5 million people are diagnosed annually. Diabetes can impact health in significant ways including contributing to kidney and heart issues. But an underrecognized effect of diabetes is hearing loss. Studies show that people with diabetes can be more than twice as likely to experience hearing loss.
This November is a great reminder to prioritize your health and wellness. You can participate in American Diabetes Month by scheduling an appointment for a hearing test.
Link Between Diabetes & Hearing Loss
Research reveals that diabetes is a risk factor for hearing loss. Studies show that people with diabetes can be much more likely to experience hearing loss compared to people without diabetes. Two significant studies that examine this correlation are:
- Study Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine: in this groundbreaking study, researchers at the National Institutes of Health investigated the link between diabetes and hearing loss by assessing 11,405 people. Participants included people with and without diabetes. Researchers found that among adults with diabetes:
- 21% experienced a mild or greater hearing loss of low or mid-frequency sounds compared to 9% of adults without diabetes.
- 54% experienced a mild or greater hearing loss of high-frequency sounds compared to 32% of adults without diabetes.
- Adults with prediabetes had a 30% higher rate of hearing loss
This data shows that adults with diabetes were more than twice as likely to experience
hearing loss of low or mid-frequency sounds, illuminating a significant correlation.
- Study Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: Researchers analyzed results from studies that involved people with and without diabetes and hearing loss. This included 13 studies and over 20,000 participants. Researchers found that people with diabetes across these studies were much more likley to have hearing loss compared to people without diabetes (regardless of age).
These studies are landmark studies in the body of research that shows that diabetes can significantly increase the risk of developing hearing loss.
Impact of Diabetes on Hearing Health
Diabetes is a medical condition that involves an excess of glucose in the bloodstream. This is caused by a lack of insulin production (Type 1 Diabetes) or the body not using insulin properly (Type 2 Diabetes). High blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels and nerves in the body including the inner ear which houses the auditory system – the sensory system for hearing. Damaged blood vessels can weaken the sensory cells in the cochlea which play a major role in how sound is processed.
Tips to Protect Hearing Health
There are many effective ways you can protect your health and reduce your risk of hearing loss. A few strategies including:
- Practice care for diabetes: be sure to talk to your doctor about what your target levels and goals are for your health. This includes target blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol etc. It is also important to take all prescribed medications and follow regiments outlined by your doctor.
- Test hearing regularly: incorporating a hearing test in annual health check-ins is a useful way to stay on top of your hearing health. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacities in both ears. Getting your hearing tested regularly allows you to monitor your hearing health and identify as well as treat any changes you may experience over time.
- Reduce exposure to loud noise: loud noise is a common cause of hearing loss. It is important to reduce your exposure to loud noise especially for people whose hearing health is already vulnerable. You can do this by maintaining low volume settings on electronic devices, wearing hearing protection like headphones or earplugs, taking listening breaks throughout the day, avoiding places with excessive background noise etc.
- Increase physical activity: increasing your physical activity offers many health benefits including supporting blood flow and circulation. This supports the body’s systems including the auditory system which is the sensory system for hearing.
American Diabetes Month is a great time to practice these strategies and prioritize your hearing health. Contact us to schedule an appointment for a hearing test which allows us to know more about your hearing needs!