Diabetes is a group of metabolic disorders caused by elevated blood sugar and abnormalities in insulin secretion and action. Instead of your body metabolizing carbs, fat and protein, these nutrients remain in the blood stream, causing blood vessel damage and ultimately organ system failure. According to the American Diabetes Association, 30 million Americans have diabetes, and 34.5 million have some form of hearing loss, which makes them two of the most prevalent health concerns in the country. More recently, researchers are noticing hearing loss is a side effect of a lot of medical conditions, and research has shown that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss.
A 2008 study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) examined two groups of people, one with diabetes and one without, that mirrored the national incidence of the disease. Researchers found mild or greater hearing loss of low- to mid-frequency sounds in 21 percent of the 399 adults with diabetes, as opposed to 9 percent in the 4,741 adults without diabetes. High frequency hearing loss was present in 54 percent of diabetics, compared with 32 percent of non-diabetics.
“Hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes. As diabetes becomes more common, the disease may become a more significant contributor to hearing loss,” said Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, in a press release from NIH. “Our study found a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes using a number of different outcomes.”
While the exact cause is still uncertain, experts believe high blood sugar levels could damage the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear in the same way they damage the eyes or the kidneys. The best way to start protecting your hearing is maintaining good control of blood sugar levels, taking prescription medication, eating healthy, and exercising.
Click here to learn more about the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.