The link between diabetes and hearing loss – San Diego audiologist
Many people are familiar with some of the health complications that can be caused by long-standing diabetes. Kidney problems, blindness, and foot amputations are all problems that diabetics may face.
Although many people don’t associate hearing loss with diabetes, this is actually another possible health complication of diabetes. In fact, studies have shown that people with diabetes have about double the risk of hearing loss, when compared to those without diabetes. In younger people, the extra risk added by diabetes is actually larger than in older people.
How does diabetes cause damage?
When the blood sugar is high, it causes damage to the walls of the blood vessels. When this happens repeatedly, there can be significant damage over time. Blood vessels become narrowed and hardened, and blood flow through these vessels decreases. This affects the tissues served by these vessels.
The first tissues to show signs of this damage are those served by very small blood vessels. For example, the kidney has many tiny blood vessels, which allows them to perform their function of filtering the blood and removing toxins. The retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, is also dependent upon very tiny blood vessels, and it has a high need for blood flow because it takes a great deal of energy to function. This is why diabetes can lead to blindness.
Blood vessels of the inner ear
The inner ear is also dependent on blood flow through many tiny blood vessels. In order to hear, the hair cells of the inner ear must transmit sounds into electrical impulses that can be interpreted by the nervous system. This is a very energy-intensive process. For this reason, the inner ear requires adequate blood flow through these small blood vessels in order to function.
When diabetes damages the blood vessels of the inner ear, it may cause hearing loss. Many people mistakenly attribute their hearing problems to other causes (such as aging), when they’re actually a result of having high blood sugars over time.
Protect your hearing
If you have diabetes, the most important thing you can do to protect your hearing is to keep your blood sugar under control. However, even those with diabetes who have good blood sugar control have a higher risk of hearing loss than do people without diabetes. Although controlling your blood sugar can make a big difference, you will still need to pay attention to your hearing. Make sure that you follow standard hearing protection precautions, including avoiding loud noises or using hearing protection when around them. If a sound is too loud to comfortably have a conversation without raising your voice, then it’s damaging your hearing.
If you have diabetes, having your hearing tested is a good idea. You may want to consider having a hearing test once a year, to see whether any hearing loss has developed. Consider that you have a vision test every year; you should also test your hearing just as often.
Hearing loss is correlated with other health problems, like depression, and causes a decline in the quality of life. It’s important to find out if you have hearing loss so that you can be treated. Today’s technologically-advanced hearing aids are nearly invisible when worn and provide incredible results for patients.