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Diabetes and Hearing Loss

30 million Americans have some type of Diabetes with most having Type II.  There are 34 million Americans with hearing loss and many of these people overlap.  People with Diabetes are 2 times more likely to have hearing loss and people who are pre-diabetic are 30% more likely to have hearing loss.

How is diabetes linked with hearing loss?

Unfortunately, we just don’t know. Some researchers believe that diabetes damages the hearing nerves similar to how it damages eyes and kidneys. Think of it as neuropathy of the hearing nerve. High blood sugars can damage nerves throughout your body. This is known as diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy most often occurs in your feet and legs.

Depending on the affected nerves, symptoms of diabetic neuropathy can range from pain and numbness in your legs and feet to problems with other areas of your body, including your digestive system and heart. Symptoms vary from person to person and may be mild or may be debilitating. Researchers think this same damage may be happening to the hearing nerve.

Another theory is that high blood sugars may damage the very small blood vessels that support and feed the inner ear. This is like how high blood sugars can affect vision and kidney function. The blood vessel system that feeds the ear is very similar to the systems that support the eyes and kidneys. As this system is damaged, hearing is compromised.

What can I do to prevent hearing loss if I have diabetes?

The best form of prevention is to tightly control blood sugar levels.  Other suggestions include quitting smoking, avoiding or managing loud noises and having an annual hearing check to establish a baseline.  Hearing loss can be so gradual, you may not even notice it. You may have the beginning stages of hearing loss if you notice any of the following:

  • Find it hard hearing other people clearly?
  • Regularly ask people to repeat themselves
  • Are accused of not listening to people when you are
  • Listen to music or watch TV with a high volume
  • Find it difficult hearing the telephone, your mobile, an alarm clock or the doorbell

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