Diabetes and Hearing Loss

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects the way your body converts food into energy. Most of the food you eat gets broken down into sugar, or glucose, and released into your bloodstream. When the blood sugar in your body increases, your pancreas takes it as a sign to release insulin. Insulin is the hormone that prompts your body’s cells to use your blood sugar for energy. People with diabetes can’t produce the amount of insulin their bodies need, or they have difficulty using their insulin properly. When this occurs, your cells can’t use your blood sugar for energy like they usually would. [1] This results in excessive amounts of blood sugar staying in your bloodstream and potentially leading to health complications over time. High blood sugar levels have even been linked to health complications like hearing loss

Can diabetes affect hearing?

Diabetes and hearing loss are two of the biggest health problems facing Americans today. Recent studies suggest that there is some crossover between the 34 million Americans with diabetes and the 34.5 million Americans living with some form of hearing loss. [2] According to the CDC, blood sugar levels that are either too high or too low can damage the nerves that are responsible for your hearing and cause hearing loss. [1]

Hearing loss is connected your overall health Discover the connection

Studies on diabetes and hearing loss

A study by the National Institutes of Health found that hearing loss is twice as common among adults with diabetes compared to adults who don’t have diabetes.

Researchers took a nationally representative sample of adults and gave them all hearing tests that measured their ability to hear low, middle, and high frequency sounds in both ears. The study found a link between diabetes and hearing loss across every frequency, especially in the high frequency range. Mild or greater hearing impairment in the subject’s worse ear was present in 54% of adults who had diabetes, compared to 32% of adults who did not.

Adults diagnosed with pre-diabetes were also tested against adults with normal blood sugar levels. Subjects were tested after an overnight fast, and the study found that participants with above average blood sugar levels had a 30% higher rate of hearing loss than those with normal blood sugar levels. [3]

In 2011, researchers from the Tsukuba University Hospital Mito Medical Center in Ibaraki, Japan, found that hearing loss was twice as common among diabetics than it was among non-diabetics. Researchers compiled studies on 8,800 people with some form of hearing impairment and 23,839 people without. They found that the patients with diabetes were 2.3 times more likely to also have mild hearing loss. [4]

Why is some hearing loss caused by diabetes?

Autopsy studies done on diabetics have suggested that hearing loss can be caused by diabetes, because elevated blood sugar levels can damage the important nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear. [3]

How to lower your risk for diabetes

Exercising

Exercising can lower your blood sugar and boost your sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that keeps your blood sugar levels normal. Try to incorporate different types of physical activity into your week, such as: 

  • Aerobic exercise: Aim for around 30 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise a day. Aerobic exercise, or cardio, is meant to make breathing more difficult and increase your heartrate. Aim for roughly 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week; aerobic exercises can include running, biking, brisk walking, swimming, and more.
  • Resistance training: Resistance exercises increase your strength and balance and allow you to continue to live an active lifestyle as you age. Resistance training can include exercises like yoga, weightlifting, heavy yardwork or gardening, calisthenics, and exercises that use your own body weight for resistance (for example, push-ups and sit-ups).
  • Avoiding long periods of inactivity: Try to limit the amount of time you spend inactive, and break up long spans of inactivity by stretching, walking, or standing. Taking breaks throughout your day can help lower your blood sugar levels. [5]

Eating healthy

The best positive dietary changes are the ones that become lifelong habits. Skip on fad diets that aren’t backed by research and focus on making balanced choices you can sustain over time. Certain foods have been shown to lower your risk for diabetes, such as:

  • Plant-based foods that are high in fiber: Plants are great sources of fiber, and fiber-dense foods have been shown to lower your risk of diabetes. Consuming a variety of healthy, fiber-rich foods like fruits, non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains will slow down your body’s absorption of sugar and help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
  • Healthy fats: Unsaturated fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats promote heart health and healthy cholesterol levels. Foods like healthy oils, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish all have heart healthy benefits when incorporated into your diet.  
Discover how healthy food can help your hearing Learn more

For patients with diabetes, the CDC recommends getting your hearing tested when you are first diagnosed with diabetes, and then once every year after. [1] Miracle-Ear offers free hearing evaluations at more than 1,500 locations across the country, so make an appointment with a Miracle-Ear hearing specialist today.

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