With 34 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes, it is indeed one of the most common diseases among adults. That striking number amounts to about 1 in 10 people with diabetes, and the number with pre-diabetes is even higher. Those who have elevated blood glucose levels that do not qualify for a diabetes diagnosis are considered to have pre-diabetes, and that population amounts to a striking 88 million Americans, about 1 in 3 adults. What makes matters worse is that many people with pre-diabetes do not realize they have the condition, and a recent study estimated that 84% of people do not realize they have pre-diabetes. What can be done about this lack of information?
An early warning system for diabetes and pre-diabetes might come as a surprise to you—a hearing test. Why would a hearing test be a way to alert your doctor to the possibility of elevated blood glucose levels? Researchers, experts, and specialists are working to understand the connection between diabetes and hearing loss, but one thing is for sure. The statistics bear out a strong enough likelihood to mean that a diagnosis of hearing loss is reason enough to inquire about diabetes with your physician.
Diabetes, Hearing Loss, and Diagnostics
Many people don’t know that they have pre-diabetes because they aren’t asking the right questions. Although your primary care physician is likely to ask you as many questions as possible in your annual physical, it’s just not possible to inquire about every possible condition. Depending on your medical history and physical characteristics, it’s possible that your physician wouldn’t automatically test your blood sugar levels. For this reason, comorbidities are important statistical information for doctors to use.
Not all people with diabetes have hearing loss, but they are twice as likely to have hearing loss as the population without diabetes. With this statistic in mind, a diagnosis of hearing loss might be reason enough for your physician to recommend a test of your blood glucose levels. While it is by no means a one-to-one relationship, those with pre-diabetes are also more likely to have hearing loss than the general public. They have a 34 percent higher likelihood of hearing loss than those without pre-diabetes or diabetes.
The Cardiovascular Mechanism
With this information in mind, you might be curious how the two conditions are connected. Even experts continue to explore the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss, but the prevailing theory has to do with the cardiovascular mechanism. All the cells of the body rely on the bloodstream to get what they need. They require oxygen and nutrients to be delivered regularly, and many parts of the body can suffer when they are deprived of the oxygen they need. We know that diabetes can lead to organ failure in the kidneys and eyes, and the cardiovascular mechanism seems to be the reason why. High blood glucose levels can either damage blood vessels or the blood composition might be such that there is just not enough oxygen and nutrition to keep these organs functioning. Experts suggest that this mechanism connects diabetes with hearing loss, as well. The tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear, called stereocilia, can become damaged when blood vessels are broken or when the blood does not carry enough oxygen to supply them with what they need.
With these relationships in mind, you can see why a hearing test is connected with diabetes. Indirectly, a hearing test can alert your physician to a higher risk of diabetes, prompting the right testing and attention to your blood glucose levels. This November while we celebrate American Diabetes Month, why not take the opportunity to get a hearing test.
Although it might seem like an unrelated way to celebrate the annual honorary month, you just might be providing your medical team with the information they need to make a diagnosis of your other needs. As well, if you know someone who might be at risk of hearing loss or diabetes, this test is an easy way to take a step toward awareness, knowledge, and treatment when it becomes necessary.