As many as 30 million people in the United States – that’s more than nine percent of the population, or approximately one in every eleven – live with diabetes. Along with the fatigue that results from the condition, and the effect that it has on appetite, diabetes can also have a demonstrable impact on the human senses, including hearing.
Hearing loss can be mitigated, as long as you are alive to the possibility of experiencing it and active in treating it. So, if you are diagnosed as being diabetic, it makes sense to be as informed as possible about the risks of experiencing hearing loss, and the actions you should take if you begin to experience this impact. Below, we will explore the link between diabetes and hearing.
What Is the Link Between Diabetes and Hearing Loss?
Studies have been ongoing for decades on the potential linkage between diabetes and loss of hearing, and the one thing that they all seem to agree on is that people with diabetes are
more likely than those without to experience hearing loss. The studies have not necessarily all been as in-depth as would be ideal, with some based on simply observational reporting, but study after study has shown a tendency among people with diabetes to also experience impairment of hearing.
Why Would Diabetes Cause Hearing Loss?
A causal link between diabetes and hearing loss has not been fully established, in the sense of identifying a direct point of causation. However, with a correlation fully established, it seems reasonable to state that the most likely reason for a link between the two is the potential for diabetes to cause damage to blood vessels in the body. We know that high blood sugar – a complication of diabetes – can extensively damage blood vessels. We also know that there is an intricate network of small blood vessels in and around the ears. It therefore follows that people with diabetes could lose part of that network and experience hearing loss.
We also know that diabetes can cause nerve damage; a primary symptom of advanced diabetes is known as peripheral neuropathy, and it results in numbness and pain in arms and legs. Given the importance of the acoustic nerve in our ability to hear well, the possibility that this nerve could be damaged in patients with diabetes, and that hearing loss could be a result, seems to be a realistic possibility. Nonetheless, more study is needed to confirm the direct link between diabetes and hearing loss.
What Should I Do If I Am Diabetic and Want to Avoid Hearing Loss?
Without knowing for sure the nature of the link between diabetes and hearing loss, detailing a specific treatment plan based on retaining your hearing is difficult. However, it is known that diabetes is a condition that you don’t cure; it is one that you manage. If you can manage your diabetes effectively, then the pathways for potential damage to your hearing should also be effectively managed. For example, the timely use of insulin to keep blood sugar levels from spiking will most likely protect the blood vessels that are important to your hearing.
In addition, knowing that you are diabetic, and therefore in a risk group for hearing loss, means that you can be proactive in minimizing the risk to your hearing. It is advisable to attend a hearing test at least once a year and arrange one immediately upon any sign of hearing loss outside of that time. While it may not always be possible to close off the risk to your hearing 100%, it is possible to work with a hearing instrument specialist (HIS) and mitigate any loss of hearing that you do experience. Wearing a hearing aid can protect against further hearing loss, so intervening at the earliest opportunity is important.
When Should I Seek a Hearing Test?
As well as arranging a yearly maintenance check-up, it would be wise to also book an appointment situationally if you find that you are frequently having to ask people to repeat themselves or if you have difficulty picking out specific sounds in crowded spaces. These are often the first sign of hearing loss, and when taken in combination with a diagnosis of diabetes are sufficient to indicate the need for a hearing test.
If you have recently learned that you have diabetes or have had the condition for some time and are learning for the first time about its potential impact on your hearing health, feel free to call Wesson Hearing Aid Center at (209) 275-1657 and find out more about your options.