Is there a link between diabetes and hearing loss?
Diabetes is a chronic, incurable disease, but it can be treated and kept under control. This illness prevents the body from using sugar as an energy source. High blood sugar levels can cause long-term complications. Some of the most common—and most known—are heart disease, vision problems, kidney failure and nerve issues. It can also cause hearing problems.
All the studies on the subject done so far agree that the risk of hearing impairment is twice as high in diabetics as it is in non-diabetics.
Why does diabetes affect hearing?
Diabetes creates pathological changes causing lesions in the blood vessels or the nervous system in the inner ear, which leads to sensorineural hearing loss. Changes in the cochlea have been observed in patients with type 2 diabetes. These changes cause hearing problems by affecting one or many parts of the inner ear such as the stria vascularis, external ciliated cells and the vessel walls of the basilar membrane.
What factors increase the risk of hearing loss?
If diabetes is left untreated, there is an increased risk of developing hearing loss. Fortunately, if blood sugar levels are monitored, people with diabetes have the same risk of hearing impairment as non-diabetics. Out of all the different age groups, female diabetics between 60 and 75 are the most likely to develop hearing problems, as found in a study by Dr. Derek J. Handzo in the United States. This holds true for those whose blood sugar levels were not treated.
In fact, decreased hearing is, of course, a normal effect of aging. It was shown that diabetic women in this age group who control their blood sugar levels have the same level of hearing as the women who do not have diabetes.
What can you do to reduce the risks?
If high blood sugar is behind the risk of hearing loss (in untreated diabetes), it can be changed and regulated by taking medication (insulin, anti-diabetic medication, etc.) as well as following a special diet and becoming more active and healthy in general. Do not wait to see a health professional. A doctor can tell you the best lifestyle changes to make and can recommend a hearing test if needed.
If you have hearing problems, make an appointment now in audiology!