November is American Diabetes Month, a national campaign that raises awareness about this life-long condition. Over 34 million people in the U.S. live with diabetes which affects how the body makes or uses insulin, a hormone that is essential for metabolism. A recent study shows that people with diabetes can be twice as likely to develop hearing loss. This month is a great reminder to be proactive about your hearing health and schedule an appointment for a hearing test!
Link Between Diabetes & Hearing Loss
Research shows that there is a significant link between diabetes and hearing loss. Studies reveal that diabetes can substantially increase the risk of developing hearing loss, a chronic medical condition that impacts nearly 48 million people. One major study that highlights this was conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Researchers evaluated data from a national health survey that captured information from hearing test results and a diabetes questionnaire. 11,405 participants were 20-69 years old. Key findings include that among people with diabetes:
- 54% had high-frequency hearing loss compared to 32% of people without diabetes.
- 21% had mid-frequency hearing loss compared to 9% of people without diabetes.
These findings underscore diabetes as a risk factor for hearing loss. Experts suggest that diabetes, which is known to damage blood vessels throughout the body, can also impact the small blood vessels in the inner ear. The inner ear houses the cochlea, filled with hair cells that help convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals for the brain to further process. If blood flow is restricted, this reduces this essential function from being performed causing hearing loss.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss reduces a person’s ability to detect and process sound, producing a range of symptoms including the following:
- Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing-like noise heard in one or both ears when there is no external sound present in the environment.
- Sounds are slurred, muffled, or blended together.
- Needing to increase the volume of electronic devices.
- Frequently asking others to repeat something they’ve said, speak louder, and/or slower.
- Difficulty hearing in environments with background noise, while talking to multiple people, in social settings, etc.
- Lip reading to help identify individual words.
- Missing parts of a conversation, experiencing miscommunication, or even pretending to hear.
These symptoms can be experienced mildly to more profoundly, depending on the degree of hearing loss present. This deteriorates effective communication which is necessary for daily life. Strained communication often takes a toll on relationships, work and social life, overall health, and wellbeing. Practicing preventative measures is a critical way to reduce your risk of developing hearing loss which is especially important for people with diabetes or who are prediabetic.
Tips to Protect Hearing Health
In addition to regularly assessing your hearing, there are several tips you can practice to protect your hearing including:
- Have hearing checked: hearing tests are conducted by hearing healthcare experts who specialize in diagnosing and treating hearing and balance-related issues. Having your hearing checked regularly (experts recommend annually) is a great way to be proactive about your hearing health. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacity in both ears. This identifies any impairment and the degree of hearing loss you could be experiencing. Once this baseline is established, your hearing healthcare provider can make recommendations for treatment options that can effectively meet your hearing needs.
- Practice healthy habits: if you have diabetes, you must be being as healthy as possible by taking all necessary medication, exercising regularly to enhance blood flow, monitoring glucose levels, etc.
- Reduce noise exposure: loud noise is a major cause of hearing loss. Reducing your exposure to loud noise is a useful way to protect hearing. You can do this by avoiding noisier places during peak hours, driving with windows rolled up, lowering the volume on electronic devices, and wearing hearing protection.
- Wear hearing protection: headphones or earplugs are useful ways you can protect your ears from absorbing loud noise. This is especially important while commuting, in social settings that are loud, or if your workplace is noisy.
This November is a useful reminder to be proactive about your hearing health. Call us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test!