The CDC reports that of the “more than 34 million people in the United States with diabetes, 1 in 5 of them don’t know they have it.” More than 88 million US adults—over a third—have prediabetes, and more than 84% are not aware of it. This is alarming, because diabetes is recorded as currently being the 7th leading cause of death in the United States and is expected to rise to one in three people if behaviors and understandings don’t change soon.
This is why November is recognized as American Diabetes Month. This annual campaign is a chance to raise awareness and educate against this dangerous condition. The theme of 2021 is early detection and prevention. Identifying and taking precautions around this disease early on can protect from the many dangerous side effects of diabetes, including hearing loss.
Connecting Diabetes and Hearing Loss
How diabetes and hearing loss has long been contested by the medical community however there is no doubt that diabetes increases the risk of hearing. In 2013 a Japanese meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, identified in diabetic patients, a risk that made them 2.15 times as likely as those without the disease to have hearing loss. Even more alarming, when age was factored in, those with diabetes who were 60 years old or younger had a 2.61 times greater risk of having hearing loss. In comparison those older than 60 had a 1.58 times higher risk of hearing impairment. These findings were based on 13 previous studies published between 1977 -2011.
Screening for Diabetes to Protect Hearing
Professor Hirohito Sone, Department of Internal Medicine, Niigata University School of Medicine, Niigata, Japan believes that hearing loss must be part of diabetes treatment. “Our findings support routine hearing screenings for people with diabetes starting at an earlier age than for people without the disease. From a preventive healthcare perspective, this is very important because we know that when left untreated, hearing loss can exacerbate and perhaps even lead to other health problems, such as depression and dementia, making the diabetes burden even greater.” Explains Sone.
The Diabetes and Hearing Loss Connection
While it is not clear exactly how diabetes affects hearing loss several theories believe it is in the way that blood sugar affects ears. The most common type of diabetes is type 2, making up nearly 90 percent of all cases. This type of diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce a sufficient amount of insulin to absorb blood sugar, also known as glucose, into the body. Insulin is a hormone that aids in the absorption of glucose into cells and when they can’t be absorbed it causes cells and nerve damage throughout the body, including the ears. While the ears collect sound, it is tiny cells in the inner ear which transmit these sound waves to the brain. When blood sugar levels become too high, blood vessels in the inner ear are believed to cause nerve and cell damage which can result in permanent hearing loss.
How to Fight Against Diabetes and Hearing Loss
It is important to understand that these two conditions are connected. One of the greatest things you can do for your hearing health this November is to make sure that you screen for prediabetes and diabetes. Prediabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be considered a full-blown case. Catching prediabetes is the best time to get your blood sugar levels in check to avoid dangerous side effects such as heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, blindness, kidney failure, and hearing loss.
Treating Hearing Loss
This November is as good a time as any to check your hearing. You may have a hearing loss and not even know it. This month, join the fight against diabetes by scheduling a hearing test now.