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It is more common than you might think. In 2021 there is an estimated 34 million people in the U.S. alone with diabetes. If things don’t change it is estimated that by 2050 1 in 3 people will suffer this condition. An unexpected complication of diabetes, that many don’t consider is hearing loss. There is a 50 percent higher risk for those with diabetes when hearing loss is present and even with the risk factors of prediabetes, the rate is 30 percent higher. November is American Diabetes Month. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or even blood sugar levels which suggests prediabetes, then use this November as a call to action to check in about your hearing health.
Why are there higher rates of hearing loss among people with diabetes?
Understanding how diabetes affects the hearing system requires an understanding of how diabetes works in the body. The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen, responsible for producing a hormone called insulin. Insulin aids significantly in the absorption of glucose, also known as blood sugar in the cells throughout the body. Proper absorption of glucose aids in energy and cell health throughout the body, including the extremities, the heart, kidneys, the eyes, and the ears. Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to aid in the absorption of blood sugar into the cells which can cause damage throughout the body. This can make blood sugar levels dangerously high if not addressed.
How Hearing is Affected
While we collect sound with our ears, we process that sound with our brain. Our ears send audio information to the audio cortex of our brain where it decodes speech and identifies sounds and their location. It achieves this using tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia which rely on a healthy supply of blood cells to optimize hearing. When diabetes goes unmonitored it can damage the stereocilia, causing permanent hearing damage.
Adding Hearing Health to Your Diabetes Care
Hearing loss often occurs gradually over many years, so you may not even know you have it. This does not mean it isn’t adding to health complications. Untreated hearing loss can make it hard to communicate with friends, family, and co-workers, ultimately causing chronic loneliness, anxiety, and depression. It can also impact mobility and a likeliness to stay active. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, then it should become normalized to immediately start checking for hearing loss. When hearing loss is addressed early it can stop or minimize chronic issues associated with communication issues, which can otherwise be difficult to undo.
Treating Hearing Loss
in more than 90% of cases, the most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These tiny electronic devices fit around or in the ear and amplify sounds you may otherwise struggle to hear. Hearing loss often becomes worse over time, but when hearing aids are worn early on, every day, they have the potential to minimize cognitive decline which could otherwise progress into dementia, maintain relationships at home, and at work as well as keeping people active and healthy for years to come.
Minimizing the Diabetic Risk to Your Hearing
By addressing and treating your diabetes diagnosis seriously, you can also protect your health. It is recommended that when you have diabetes you make sure to read your blood sugar levels daily in addition to taking medication to maintain a safe glucose level. However, your lifestyle choices may make an even bigger difference in this diseases’ impact on your health. Choosing a healthy diet, rich in vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, while avoiding processed sugars, is key to keeping glucose levels manageable. In addition, treating hearing loss can keep you active, which in turn helps keep blood sugar levels down. Health experts recommend 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, at least three times a week to manage symptoms.
Schedule a Hearing Test
This November we urge you to take diabetes seriously by scheduling a hearing exam. Understanding where you stand with hearing health can help guide you in an appropriate treatment solution, that is just right for you. Diabetes and hearing loss are both serious conditions that can jeopardize the quality of life you have, your mobility, and your emotional health. Don’t let it get to that point. Take control and schedule a hearing test today.