A Connection between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

A Connection between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

In Health, hearing health, News, Research by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

When it comes to your hearing health, some causes of hearing loss seem pretty obvious. Everyone knows that extremely loud noises can cause hearing loss, and that age slowly wears away at your hearing. But there are many causes of hearing loss you might not know about, and if you’re one of the 30 million Americans who have diabetes, your hearing may be at risk.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that affects insulin production and release. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that regulates blood glucose levels, also known as blood sugar levels. Insulin allows glucose to pass from the blood stream into the cells that need fuel. When you eat, blood sugar levels rise, and this triggers a release of insulin so that nutrients reach your hungry cells.

Your cells need glucose to survive and function properly, but if you have diabetes, your pancreas isn’t functioning properly. Glucose stays in the blood, and never reaches the cells. You’ll experience extremely high blood sugar levels, and your cells won’t be getting the food they need to function. Health problems associated with diabetes include heart disease, stroke, fatigue, kidney disease, vision impairment, a weakened immune system, and even nerve damage.

Type 1 Diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t make insulin at all. Your immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin, and you have to take insulin every day in order to function. If you don’t take insulin, your body will completely shut down. Type 2 Diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and can develop at any age. Your body does produce some insulin, but not enough to maintain blood sugar levels and properly feed your cells.

Diabetes and Hearing Loss

What does diabetes have to do with hearing loss? Researchers from the National Institutes of Health have found that if you have diabetes, you’re twice as likely to have hearing loss! This is because both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes affect the blood flow in profound ways. Diabetes increases your risk of hearing loss since your ears aren’t able to get the nutrients they need from the blood, and are often damaged or die.

High blood sugar levels are likely the cause of the increased risk of hearing loss. Elevated blood sugars affect the blood flow, and damage the delicate cells in the cochlea, or inner ear. Your ear is full of these sensitive cells that are able to pick up on the sound waves around you, figure out where the sounds are coming from, convert these sounds waves into electrical impulses, and relay all this information to the brain. However, they require a lot of oxygen and nutrients to carry out these tasks efficiently. They’re very susceptible to damage from lack of nutrients, and once these cells are damaged there’s no way to repair them, and you’ll experience permanent hearing loss.

Reducing Rates of Diabetes

Roughly 9.4% of the population has diabetes, and this number continues to rise, in part due to bad eating habits and a lack of proper exercise. To reduce your risk of diabetes, take a look in your kitchen cupboards, and eliminate all those sugary snacks. They might give you a momentary burst of energy, but in the long run they’re bad for your health. Be sure to maintain a healthy weight since excessive weight significantly increases your risk of diabetes.

Encourage your family to get away from the TV, and take the dog out for a walk or go for a run. Moderate exercise a few times a week greatly reduces your risk of diabetes by improving blood flow and circulation, and promoting insulin production.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you’ve noticed any changes in your hearing, visit us today at HearCare for a hearing test. If you have diabetes and are concerned it may be causing a hearing loss, it is also important to speak to your primary care provider. Whatever the cause of your hearing loss, living with untreated hearing loss affects your quality of life, is closely linked to social isolation and depression, and can lead to rapid cognitive decline. Take charge of your hearing health, and see what a pair of quality hearing aids can do for you.