Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes. Even more have hearing loss about 34.5 million. These are both significant numbers, and it seems there is overlap between these two groups. The National Institute of Health (NIH) recently commissioned a study that concluded hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes versus people without the disease.
Why would this be, and what can diabetics do with this new information? Read on to find out what may be the correlation.
How Diabetes Affects Hearing
Researchers on the NIH study, which was conducted over a period of five years, tested subjects' hearing in eight different ways, measuring hearing ability for low, medium, and high frequency sounds. The study concluded that there is a link between hearing loss and diabetes, but we can't be absolutely certain how diabetes and hearing loss are related. There are many factors to consider, and more studies need to be done to pin down the exact causal relationship(s).
One possible reason for hearing loss in diabetics is damage to the small blood vessels located in the inner ear. This is the same type of blood vessel damage that can lead to problems in the eyes and kidneys. Autopsies done on diabetic patients have revealed this type of damage. This theory, and others, will need to be further explored in order to make definite conclusions as to the cause of hearing loss in diabetics.
Hearing loss is usually gradual, and is often noticed by friends or family members before the person affected. Some symptoms of hearing loss include inability to follow a conversation involving more than two people, asking others to repeat themselves, and turning up television or radio volume to levels that others find too loud.
If you think you may be experiencing hearing loss, or are concerned about the possibility of future hearing loss due to complications from your diabetes diagnosis, talk to your doctor. They can refer you to an audiologist, or a provider specializing in hearing problems.
Your audiologist should be made aware of your diabetes diagnosis and any medications you may be taking. It's important to take proactive steps and receive medical care to minimize impairment caused by diabetes and hearing loss.