Diabetes is a worldwide problem affecting 34.2 million people or 10.5 percent of the population in the United States alone. However, worldwide this chronic health condition affects one in 10 people, particularly in low to middle-income countries where 4 out 5 cases occur (84%). This is due in part to less access to healthy food and urbanization which has led to less activity.
This has many implications for national and world health as many with diabetes if left untreated can suffer heart disease, nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness, and amputation. Many people don’t associate hearing loss with this list of side effects, but new findings note that they should. November is National Diabetes Month, and it is not only a good time to screen for diabetes but also, check on your hearing health.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) suggests that part of any management program of diabetes, hearing health should be considered. and suggests five habits for healthier hearing for people with diabetes. A 2008 study published by the National Institute of Health found that those who lived with diabetes also had a 50 percent higher likeliness of having hearing loss.
How Diabetes and Hearing Health are Connected
While we collect sound with our ears, we understand and hear these sounds with our brain. We achieve this by relying on tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear, which translate sound from vibration into electrical pulses which can be translated by the audio cortex in the brain. Researchers theorize that the connection rests in diabetes affect small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear. Diabetes occurs when the insulin cannot be properly absorbed by the cells and nerves of the body, causing damage throughout. This of course includes the fragile cells of the ear which rely on a healthy supply of oxygenated blood to maintain proper function. As diabetes progresses, so does the likeliness of hearing loss.
A Meta-Analysis on Diabetes and Hearing Loss
In 2011, Hirohito Sone, MD, PhD, professor in the department of endocrinology and metabolism, University of Tsukuba Mito medical center, and colleagues analyzed and compared data from 13 observational studies of 8,797 hearing impairment cases and 11,264 non-hearing impairment cases. The findings were very clear in illuminating a connection across the two chronic conditions. The likeliness of hearing loss increased 2.15 times when diabetes was present. “Our findings support routine hearing screenings for people with diabetes starting at an earlier age than for people without the disease,” Professor Sone explained. “This is very important from a preventive healthcare perspective. We want to stop untreated hearing loss from potentially leading to other health problems, like depression or dementia, which would make the diabetes burden even greater.”
As the researchers examined age as a factor, it was discovered that younger individuals were at an even greater risk of hearing loss. While those 60 years and older, were 1.58 times more likely to have hearing loss, those 60 and younger with the disease had a 2.61 times higher risk.
Habits for Healthier Hearing for People with Diabetes
Proper management of diabetes must include attention to hearing health. Left unaddressed, hearing loss can cause serious communication issues which easily unfold into chronic depression, anxiety, loneliness, and cognitive decline, leading to dementia. If you have been recently diagnosed with diabetes, it is reasonable to suspect that it’s a wise choice to screen for hearing loss as well. While there is no way to reverse damage to the ears caused by diabetes, it can be treated, using hearing aids. These amazing devices amplify sounds which may be compromised due to damage, so they can be detected with more ease. This can minimize stress and bridge communication gaps which lead to low self-esteem, less activity, and a loss of independence.
A Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of diabetes and hearing loss significantly. It is recommended that you exercise for at least 30 minuets a couple of times a week to get your heart rate up and keep the risk of diabetes and hearing loss low. In addition, make sure to avoid foods high in processed sugars and prioritize vegetable, whole foods, and lean meats. This November, make sure to screen for diabetes, especially if you are 45 or older. It could save your hearing and your life. Schedule a hearing test today.