This November, Test Your Hearing in Honor of American Diabetes Month

This November, Test Your Hearing in Honor of American Diabetes Month

Do you have diabetes? You may and not even know it. With an estimated 37 million people in the US diagnosed with diabetes—around 1 in 10, 1 in 5 aren’t diagnosed. Even more alarming is the prevalence of prediabetes – a condition in which blood sugar levels are high enough to be considered in danger of becoming diabetic. This includes one in 3 people or around 88 million, most of who are unaware. This November is American Diabetes Month, an annual national campaign to raise awareness around this pervasive and serious condition. This November, we urge you to consider screening for hearing loss as part of diabetes care.

Do You Have Diabetes?

Diabetes can happen to anyone so it’s important to screen regularly. If you attend annual physicals then it’s likely your doctor will check for diabetes – especially if it runs in your family, are 45 years and older or have other comorbidities such as hypertension or heart issues. 

Screening for Hearing Loss

While screening for diabetes is common, it’s less likely that they will test your hearing. Studies show that diabetes doubles your chance of hearing loss, yet hearing screenings are rarely part of diabetes treatment. In fact, it’s estimated that only two in ten people have had a recent hearing screening. Identifying a hearing loss early can help prevent the far-reaching effects of hearing loss. This includes an impact on your relationships at home, out and about and at work, which can over time lead to a lack of self-confidence, self-esteem, and chronic depression. In addition, hearing loss is a loss of information from the ears to the brain. This requires your brain to work overtime, making a simple social interaction incredibly frustrating and exhausting. It can also put stress on the brain leading to cognitive decline and a heightened risk of dementia. Detecting and treating hearing loss early can help prevent these and many more side effects of hearing loss.

How are Diabetes and Hearing Loss Connected?

The most common type of diabetes is type 2, which occurs when the body struggles to create enough insulin to properly absorb blood sugar, or glucose into the cells throughout the body. Insulin is a hormone created in the pancreas and regulates blood sugar absorption to the cells throughout the body. Glucose is derived from the foods we eat and feeds our cells. However, when the body can’t make enough insulin the cells across the entire body suffer. This can cause heart disease, chronic kidney disease, nerve damage, and other problems with feet, oral health, vision and even hearing!

Countless studies have found that people with diabetes are significantly more likely to experience hearing loss than people who don’t have the disease. Even pre-diabetes can increase your risk of hearing loss by 30 percent!

How Diabetes Affects our Hearing

While we collect sound with our ears, sound must reach our brain in order to hear it. It achieves this via tiny hair like cells within the cochlea at the end of ear canal. These tiny fragile cells are the sole delivery system of sound from the ears to the brain. When diabetes causes these cells to restrict blood flow and deplete them of oxygen, they are more suspectable to damage. While it’s usually not all hearing that is affected, certain tones and pitches are lost. This can impact a person’s ability to follow conversation. Consonants are often the first affected, making it difficult to decipher “v” from “b” or f from “sh”. As a result, its’ common for an individual to suffer through social interaction, feeling exhausted, frustrated, and lonely, even when surrounded by those closest to them.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle with Diabetes

Just because you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes doesn’t mean it’s a death sentence. By adjusting a few lifestyle choices and habits, chances are you can keep your blood sugar levels under control and enjoy a healthy life for years to come. The first step is staying active and eating a heart healthy diet, free of most processed foods and sugars. In addition to taking medications and suggestions from your doctor, we recommend scheduling a hearing exam. Catch hearing loss today and get ready for the rest of your life!