Hearing Loss and Overall Health Series – Focus on Diabetes

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In many of our other posts, we’ve mentioned there is a connection between hearing loss and a variety of other conditions that affect our health.  Today we’re starting a series of Hearing Loss and Overall Health entries that will focus on specifics in greater detail.

Today’s focus is Diabetes.

Nearly 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. An estimate of 34.5 million people have some level of hearing loss. Those are some big numbers, and there is a lot of overlap between the two groups.

The American Diabetes Organization reports that a recent study found that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don’t have the disease. Additionally, of the 84 million adults in the United States who have prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher than those with normal glucose levels.

It is, as yet, unclear as to how the two are related, but one theory is that high glucose levels associated with diabetes cause damage to the small blood vesssels in the inner ear (much in the same way as diabetes can damage the eyes and kidneys.) More research needs to be done to discover the cause of the correlation.

Hearing loss can happen slowly, and the symptoms are often easy to miss. Quite often, friends or family members notice the hearing loss before the person experiencing it.

Some of the most common signs are:

  • Frequently asking others to repeat themselves.
  • Trouble following conversations that involve more than two people.
  • Thinking that others are mumbling.
  • Problems hearing in noisy places such as busy restaurants.
  • Trouble hearing the voices of women and small children.
  • Turning up the TV or radio volume too loud for others who are nearby.

Another way to determine whether you hear as well as you think you do, is to avoid looking at the person speaking. Without knowing it, we begin to lipread when our hearing begins to decline.

If you think you may have a hearing loss, or if you suffer from diabetes, talk to your doctor. You may then want to seek help from an audiologist.  A full hearing exam will provide the answers you’re looking for. If you are suffering from hearing loss, no matter how mild, this will give you options of how to treat it, so that your hearing doesn’t decline further.