Can Diabetes Cause Hearing Loss?
The Statistics Say Yes.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), there are more than 37 million people in America currently living with diabetes. There are also more than 34 million individuals nationwide currently suffering from some level of hearing loss.
Here’s the big reveal. It turns out that a lot of these are the same people! In other words, an unusual majority of those experiencing hearing loss are also living with diabetes.
In fact, studies show that people with diabetes are more than two times as likely to experience some degree of hearing loss than those who do not have the disease. Even those with prediabetes (elevated blood sugar that hasn’t reached the point of warranting a diabetes diagnosis) are at increased risk with a hearing loss rate 30% higher than individuals who have normal blood sugar levels.
The ADA notes that the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss is not entirely understood and requires more research, but the evidence undeniably points to a connection, and that connection is most likely related to prolonged blood sugar levels that are too high or too low.
The Connection Between Diabetes and Hearing Loss
We’ve all heard how prolonged exposure to loud music or noises can cause hearing loss. Even just growing older can lead to diminished hearing. What’s not often discussed is how diabetes can impact hearing.
Diabetes that is not properly managed can damage nerves throughout the body, a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. This is often experienced in the feet and hands, resulting in sensations of numbness and tingling. It can also impact the eyes causing vision problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we now know that nerve damage related to diabetes can also occur in the ears, and this very well may be the link between the disease and hearing loss.
Diabetes And Damage to Your Ears
Diabetic neuropathy occurs when blood sugar levels are not properly maintained. This can lead to prolonged periods of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or prolonged periods of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), both of which can result in nerve damage.
When blood sugar remains high, according to the CDC, over time it can damage the blood vessels and nerves in the inner here. Low blood sugar when left unchecked can damage how nerve signals travel from your inner ear to your brain. Both of these types of nerve damage can result in hearing loss.
The Signs – Are You Experiencing Hearing Loss?
The thing about hearing loss related to diabetes is that it almost always happens gradually. In fact, it’s often difficult to recognize you’re experiencing hearing loss until the symptoms become quite pronounced over time. In many cases, it’s family and friends around a person who first begin to notice the signs. So what are they?
7 Signs You Might Be Experiencing Hearing Loss
- You often ask others to repeat themselves
- You sometimes feel lost in group conversations (multiple people talking)
- It often seems like those around you are mumbling
- When you’re in loud or busy places, such as restaurants or events, it’s hard to make out what people are saying, or the noise feels overwhelming
- You have trouble hearing the voices of small children
- People tell you that your television or radio is turned up extremely loud
- You feel off balance (problems with your hearing can impact balance)
If you experience any of these signs, see your diabetes physician to determine whether or not you should be referred to an audiologist.
Not sure if you’re experiencing hearing loss? Download the HearWHO app, developed by The World Health Organization to help people screen for hearing loss and monitor their hearing over time. This is a great tool for anyone predisposed to hearing loss, including those living with diabetes.
How to Prevent Diabetes-Related Hearing Loss
You’ve heard this one before. The best thing you can do to prevent hearing loss related to diabetes is to properly manage your blood sugar levels. That means testing your blood sugar regularly using a glucose meter and compatible test strips, or a continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM). It’s also important to follow your doctor-prescribed medication plan, including insulin injections by syringe or insulin pen. If you use an insulin pump or patches, make sure yours is functioning properly and you have plenty of infusions sets or pods available.
It’s also important to avoid other causes of hearing loss, such as prolonged exposure to loud noises, including blasting the volume on your headphones. This is a no-no! Whether you’re on a phone call, in a virtual meeting, or listening to music, keep the volume level moderate and protect those ears.
The CDC also recommends having your hearing checked every year by an audiologist as soon as you are diagnosed with diabetes and then every subsequent year afterwards.
Hearing lost can be frustrating and disrupt life for you, your family, and others around you. Once hearing loss occurs, it cannot be reversed, so prevention is the best medicine. Just one more great reason to stick to your diabetes care plan and effectively manage your blood sugar.
We hope you found this post interesting and informative. At Diabetic Warehouse, we committed to keeping you up to date with the latest news and insights on living with diabetes. We’re also proud to help you stick to your doctor-prescribed diabetes treatment plan with a huge selection of diabetic supplies and equipment at prices up to 65% less than you’ll find at pharmacies and other suppliers.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.