Studies Show Higher Rates of Hearing Loss for People with Diabetes  

It is estimated that by 2050 1 in 10 people will struggle with hearing loss, making the importance of monitoring and protecting your hearing more important than ever. Do you suspect that your hearing isn’t what it used to be? There are many health factors that can make your hearing loss more severe when you ignore them. While it is common knowledge that loud noises can damage your hearing, you might be surprised that diabetes can be just as dangerous to your ears.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic health condition causing your body to not be able to create enough insulin, or cannot use it effectively. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and regulates the amount of sugar that can enter your cells. Without a proper amount of insulin, you’ll have high blood sugar levels, and those nutrients never make it into your cells causing dangerous health risks, especially if ignored.  Insulin in the bloodstream allows your cells to receive its vital nutrients, such as vitamin B12, E, D and magnesium. The loss of ability to properly absorb these nutrients causes high blood sugar levels can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve issues. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that currently, 34 million people in the US suffer from diabetes, while another 88 million are at high risk, already living with prediabetes conditions. 

  • Prediabetes: this occurs when blood sugar levels are dangerously high and at risk of developing into type 2 diabetes. 
  • Type 2: The most common type of diabetes is type 2 occurs when your body can not process insulin efficiently to pass nutrients to your cells. 
  • Type 1: In contrast, people with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin at all. Type 1 typically affects people at the onset of adolescence while type 2 diabetes tends to show up later in life and is often based on lifestyle choices.

Diabetes and Hearing Loss

So, if diabetes is an issue with insulin and blood sugar, why would it create an issue with hearing? A recent study sought this answer after finding that people with diabetes were about twice as likely to develop hearing loss than someone with healthy blood sugar levels. To understand why it’s first important to understand how hearing loss develops. Our inner ear contains many tiny hair-like cells, called stereocilia which collect soundwaves and convert them into electrical pulses which are received and processed by the brain. Stereocilia are unfortunately very fragile and when the more damage they sustain the less audio information is received by the brain. Many things can damage the stereocilia including exposure to loud noise, impact to the head, certain medications, old age and lack of blood to the inner ear. When people suffer from diabetes for a long time, high blood sugar levels can damage cells and blood vessels throughout the body, including in the inner ear.  Diabetes is also associated with insufficient blood circulation, which can deprive the inner ear of the vital oxygenated blood, your ears require to stay healthy and intact. The extremities, such as toes and ears, can become oxygen deprived due to poor blood pressure, causing damage.

Reducing Your Risk of Diabetes

The good news for all the people who are prediabetic or at risk of becoming so, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk. The most important changes are based on your lifestyle. Eat a healthy diet full of vegetables and whole grains while avoiding excess sugar, processed foods, smoking and alcohol. Now all you have to do is commit to exercising at least 20 minutes every day to get your heart rate up and blood pumping through your body. Not only does this decrease the risk of diabetes and hearing loss but also can increase mood, sleep and self-esteem.

Treating Hearing Loss

It’s important to understand that our entire health is connected, so lifestyle choices don’t only affect your chances of diabetes, but also your heart, blood pressure, mental health and hearing. If you suspect that you do have hearing loss, it is important to have it treated as soon as possible. To find out the extent of your hearing loss and what are the best treatment options for you, schedule a hearing test today.