Diabetes, among other health conerns, can be more intertwined with your hearing health and abilities than you might expect. By having an understanding of your overall health and how it impacts hearing, you can take more preventative action against hearing loss.
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.
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
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
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
If you have concerns about diabetes, be sure to speak with a medical professional about changes you can make in your personal life to reduce your risks. In the meantime, aim to incorporate healthy habits into your daily life, including eating well and staying active.
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:
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:
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.