Is there a Link between diabetes and hearing loss?

Without a doubt, diabetes is a hot topic — and not in a particularly good way. Considered by many to be the biggest epidemic of this century, it affects more and more Americans at a staggering rate. According to the American Diabetes Association, 30 million Americans have diabetes, and 34.5 million have some form of hearing loss!  Together, they are two of the most prevalent health concerns in the country today. It is important to note that when we understand the risks associated with both diabetes and hearing loss we are able to work towards preventing or at the very least, decreasing further complications.

Recent studies by the National Institutes of Health show a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes.  People with diabetes are usually aware of their increased risk of kidney, cardiovascular, and visual disorders, but did you know that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss?  Experts believe that those elements that damage the eyes or kidneys could similarly be damaging to the tiny and very sensitive nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear.

Are you at Greater Risk for Hearing Loss?

The results of a study done in Japan was published in the November 2012 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The team led by Chika Horikawa, examined data from 13 previous studies published between 1977 and 2011. Their conclusion was that not only were diabetics 2.15 times as likely as others to have hearing loss, but those under age 60 had 2.61 times the risk while those over 60 had 1.58. In a related study by the National Institutes of Health, it was discovered that more than 40% of people with diabetes had some degree of hearing loss!

Diabetes and Hearing Loss

The link between diabetes and hearing loss is not yet fully understood. Some think that high blood sugar levels may damage the blood vessels in the ears. Others caution that certain medications commonly used by diabetic patients, such as diuretics, may be a contributing factor. According to the Horikawa and his team, results of the study propose “that diabetic patients are screened for hearing impairment from an earlier age compared with nondiabetics”. As with many things, more research is needed in order to understand the connection between diabetes and hearing loss.  However, according to Horikawa, “these results propose that diabetic patients should be screened for hearing impairment from an earlier age compared with nondiabetics,” particularly because untreated hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of dementia and depression.

Audiologists recommend having your hearing checked regularly, similar to having an annual physical.  In many cases, family or friends will notice a person’s hearing loss long before the individual does.  By checking on an annual basis, we will know of those gradual changes and whether or not there is a need for further attention.  If you are at risk for a hearing loss because you are diabetic, it’s time to get your hearing tested!  Call today!

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