Does Diabetes Increase Your Chances of Hearing Loss?
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that inhibits the body’s ability to produce the hormone insulin, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose. Your pancreas, the main regulator of digestion and blood sugar, does not produce enough insulin for the body to function properly. While there is no cure yet for diabetes, with the right lifestyle and medication, it is controllable.
Is There a Positive Correlation Between Diabetes and Hearing Loss?
In 2017, the American Diabetes Association concluded in their research “that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don’t have the disease”. Researchers believe it has something to do with abnormally high blood glucose levels, which consequently affects your heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Some researchers suggest that the increased risk of hearing loss in patients with diabetes is due to poor blood circulation that causes damage to the small blood vessels located within the ear. While research is still ongoing, prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels are damaging to your overall health and your hearing.
Researchers believe the link has to do with elevated blood sugar levels. Dr. Munir, a professor of medicine with a specialty in endocrinology (study of endocrine glands and hormones) at the Diabetes and Nutrition at the School of Medicine in New York City, claims that while“it is not completely clear if improving glucose control will help diabetes-related hearing loss, but if the mechanisms are similar to other microvascular diseases, it may be helpful” (OnTrack).
Like diabetes, hearing loss cannot be completely cured but can be “fixed” with the help of hearing aids and adequate hearing maintenance. It’s very important to pick up on the early signs of hearing loss – Do you ever find yourself experiencing:
- Frequently having to ask others to repeat themselves
- Trouble following conversations that involve more than two people
- Difficulty hearing in noisy places i.e. busy restaurants/shopping malls
- Turning up the TV or radio volume too loud for others who are nearby
In preventing or managing diabetes, it is important to:
- Keep up-to-date with doctor and physician appointments
- Exercise regularly 2-3 times a week
- Eat a balanced nutritional diet
- Reduce stress levels at work and home (try taking a walk, meditating, etc.)
- Stop smoking
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is a strong link between impaired hearing and diabetes. In a study done by the North Carolina Diabetes and Research Branch, investigators noticed that participants with diabetes had a harder time hearing than those with people without diabetes. Researchers later concluded that one in three people with diabetes will experience hearing loss because of elevated blood glucose. Your ears are delicate structures, they need to be regularly stimulated and taken care of. The blood vessels in your ear are not repaired once damaged. When your blood sugar rises, there is a failure of nerves in the ears and our hearing worsen over time.
How to stabilize your blood sugar
- Eat a healthy breakfast
- Eat foods low in glycemic index
- Avoid simple sugars and refined carbohydrates
- Reduce stimulants like coffee, nicotine, etc.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat more fiber
- Drink more water
- Regularly visit your doctor – see if he/she can prescribe you insulin treatments or medications.
It’s good to be in tune with your ears and notice your symptoms early. If you find yourself asking others to repeat themselves frequently, you may feel that it is best to visit a professional hearing consultant. Many people are afraid of judgment when they need to use a hearing aid, which causes their hearing condition to worsen even further.
If you are concerned about hearing loss, the first step is to schedule a hearing consultation today.