Check Your Hearing This November for American Diabetes Month

Diabetes is a disease affecting a staggering number of Americans. If you consider the rates of pre-diabetes alone, the condition affects at least 88 million Americans who have elevated blood glucose levels. With so many experiencing the condition, you likely know someone, have someone in your family, or even have diabetes or pre-diabetes yourself. Getting treatment from a physician is the first step, and the innovative approaches to diabetes treatment today are reducing symptoms and improving the quality of life for those with the condition. 

One of the things you can do to take part in American Diabetes Month is to get a hearing test. How is hearing related to diabetes, you might wonder? Experts are continuing to ask the same thing, but the bald statistics demonstrate a strong connection. Those who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss as those who do not have diabetes. Even those who have pre-diabetes are 30 percent more likely to have hearing loss. 

With these facts in mind, how are the conditions connected? What can you do to prevent hearing loss? What if you already have hearing loss? Is there treatment available? Let’s take a moment to consider these questions with a mind to promoting your ongoing hearing health and general wellness. 

Hearing Loss and Diabetes

How is hearing loss connected to diabetes? More research is needed in this area, but experts have a couple of ideas about how the two conditions are related to one another. 

The first theory looks at the effect of high blood glucose levels on the cardiovascular system. The small blood vessels of the ears can be damaged by this excess of glucose in the blood, and this damage starts a chain reaction that results in hearing damage. 

Another theory has to do with the composition of the blood that does make its way to the inner ear. When that blood carries too high a composition of glucose, it can have too little oxygen and other nutrients that the inner ear requires. The tiny hairlike organelles of the cochlea, called stereocilia, are very sensitive to slight differences in frequencies, amplitudes, and timbres of sound. This sensitivity makes it possible to differentiate between syllables in speech, the sounds of different voices, and even the subtlest dialect of the language. However, this same sensitivity of the stereocilia also makes them prone to damage. When they are deprived of the resources they need, these organelles can become permanently damaged. When one of these hair cells clusters is damaged, that frequency of sound cannot be heard at a given volume any longer, so diabetes may start a mechanism that leads to hearing damage. 

Prevention and Treatment

The good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent, manage, and treat hearing loss. In the first instance, everyone can benefit from hearing protection, particularly those who take part in work or leisure activities that include noise exposure. When your ears are inundated with loud sound, they can experience damage similarly to that related to diabetes. The good news is that protection, even in the form of basic disposable foam earplugs can reduce the volume level of sound by 10 to 15 decibels, making it possible to prolong the duration of exposure. What if you believe that you have already incurred hearing damage, either because of diabetes or another cause? 

The first step is to get a diagnostic exam, determining the extent of hearing loss. This test will determine not only how severe your hearing loss is, but also which frequency ranges of sound are the most problematic. With these results in hand, you can work in concert with your hearing health professional to explore your options for treatment. The latest hearing aids come with a wide range of features and functions or minimal simplicity, making it possible to find a pair of aids that suit your individual lifestyle and needs. 

If you are concerned about your hearing ability, the time is now to schedule an appointment for your exam. With your hearing profile in hand, one of our hearing health professionals can guide you through the process of seeking treatment.