Diabetes Doubles The Rate of Hearing Loss
According to the American Diabetes Association there are approximately 30 million people (nearly 10% of the population) in the United States with diabetes. As the numbers continues to rise, so it seems do the potential health complications stemming from diabetes. Blindness, kidney problems, neuropathy, heart disease and depression have all been linked prominently to diabetes, and now research indicates that there is also a connection to hearing as well. According to a recent study, hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don't have the disease. Additionally, there 86 million Americans with high glucose levels that are at a 30% risk of experiencing hearing loss. That number grows to 50% if they develop diabetes.
As a result of the documented higher rate of hearing loss among diabetics, healthcare professionals and the medical community are urging everyone, most especially those with diabetes to make hearing checks a part of their annual medical screening. Similar to having your eyes checked annually to protect your vision, we now know it’s important to get your hearing checked regularly as well, to help detect the onset of hearing loss. Also, by keeping diabetes under control, people can help minimize potential diabetes-related hearing damage.
So what is the link between diabetes and hearing loss?
According to Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk, Chair of Otolaryngology (ear, nose & throat medicine) at the Henry Ford Clinic and head of research for an observational study on hearing loss and diabetes, the common theory is that diabetes causes a change in the nerves similar to what occurs in the eyes and kidneys. Furthermore, evidence of damage done to the small blood vessels in other bodily organs by high glucose levels suggests the inner ear is similarly damaged and hearing sensitivity is eroded. The reduction of blood flow to the ear is thought to cause damage the nerves of the cochlea in similar ways that hindered blood flow damages nerves in the legs and feet of diabetics.
Yaremchuk stated that, “A certain degree of hearing loss is common with aging, but it is often accelerated in patients with diabetes, especially if blood-glucose levels are not being controlled. Our study really points to the importance of patients controlling their diabetes and paying attention to their hearing health.”
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