Is Diabetes Causing Your Hearing Loss?

Most of us are familiar with the complications of uncontrolled diabetes; the heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves are all affected by diabetic complications. However, many don’t realize that hearing loss has also been linked to diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, a recent study found that hearing loss is twice as common in individuals with diabetes as it is in those who don’t have the disease. Another study suggested that 70 percent of diabetics between the ages of 50 and 69 years old have high-frequency hearing loss and a much as one third experience low or mid-frequency hearing loss.

While scientists and doctors are now aware that a correlation exists between diabetes and hearing loss, they are still unable to pinpoint the exact cause. While we know that diabetes affects other nerves in the body, it is possible that there is also a nerve breakdown in the ears as well; the same kind of nerve damage that causes tingling and other sensations in the body’s extremities could also affect the nerves in the ear. Another theory is that due to the blood being much thicker when blood sugar is elevated, it is possible that the tiny capillaries of the cochlea are damaged.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association reported that autopsied diabetic patients showed signs of sclerosis of the internal auditory artery, thicker vessel walls, demyelination of the cochlear nerve and atrophy of the spiral ganglion. It was also noted that these patients also had loss of the outer hair cells or cilia. Poor sugar control damages blood vessels and nerves throughout the body so it makes sense that the ears would not escape unscathed.

Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit said that while no diabetic complication is desirable, hearing loss can be particularly insidious. Individuals who suffer from hearing loss can become isolated and withdrawn from friends and family and depression can soon follow. Other research suggests that hearing loss can also increase the risk for dementia; our brains require daily stimulus in order to remain healthy and when individuals are not receiving that stimulus from their environment, it has the potential to lead to dementia.

The best way to protect your hearing, if you are one of the 29 million Americans that suffer from diabetes, is to maintain good control of your blood sugar. Taking all prescribed medications, eating a healthy diet and making exercise a part of your daily routine all aid in managing your blood sugar more effectively. If you think that your diabetes has already affected your hearing however, don’t wait to see an audiologist. The sooner you begin treatment for hearing loss, the better.

This entry was posted in Heath and Wellnes, Audiology, Hearing Tests, Audiologists. Bookmark the permalink.