Did you know that this month is American Diabetes Month? Over 34 million people experience diabetes, a chronic medical condition that impacts how the body turns food into energy. This can increase health risks, research shows that people with diabetes can be twice as likely to also develop hearing loss. If you have diabetes (or are prediabetic), it is important to have your hearing tested. This month is a useful reminder to take action that can transform your health.
Impact of Diabetes on Hearing Health
Research shows that there is a correlation between diabetes and hearing loss. Studies highlight that diabetes can significantly increase the risk of developing hearing loss. This includes a major study, published in 2008, that was conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. The study involved a nationally representative sample of over 11,000 adults who were 20-69 years old. Researchers analyzed data that included hearing tests results as well as information provided from a diabetes questionnaire and found that among people with diabetes:
- 54% had high-frequency hearing loss, compared to 32% of people without diabetes.
- 21% had mid-frequency hearing loss, compared to 9% of people without diabetes.
These findings reveal a significant link between both conditions. Experts suggest that because diabetes is known to damage blood vessels throughout the body, this can include the blood vessels in the inner ear. The inner ear plays an integral role in how we hear, specifically translating incoming sound waves into electrical signals that then get sent to the brain to be further processed. Damage to the blood vessels in the inner ear would disrupt this process, preventing this critical function and causing permanent hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Symptoms
Hearing loss is an invisible condition that typically happens gradually so it can remain unnoticed for quite some time. This contributes to a delay in treatment which can worsen impairment and increase health risks. It is important to be able to recognize signs of hearing loss so you can intervene early which can significantly ease the transition into better hearing health. Common hearing loss symptoms include:
- Tinnitus: often referred to as “ringing of the ears” is a ringing, buzzing, or clicking like noise heard in one or both ears.
- Sounds are muffled and indistinguishable
- Turning up the volume on the television or other electronic devices
- Asking others to repeat themselves or speak louder
- Difficulty hearing in noisier settings like restaurants
- Finding yourself lip-reading to identify words
- Feeling depleted after social interactions
- Experiencing miscommunication, missing information, or pretending to hear during conversations
These symptoms take a toll on communication, having multifaceted effects on life. Untreated hearing loss often strains relationships, can lead to social withdrawal, and contribute to loneliness and depression. Addressing hearing loss is critical to overall health and daily wellness.
Tips for Protecting Hearing Health
Practicing simple safety measures can reduce the risk of developing hearing loss. This is especially important and useful for people with diabetes or who are prone to diabetes. A few tips you can start integrating are:
- Take a hearing test. This is the first step in addressing hearing loss. Hearing tests involve a painless process that measures hearing capacity in both ears. This identifies any hearing impairment and the degree. After your hearing needs are established, your hearing healthcare provider can make effective recommendations to meet those needs.
- Wear protective gear. Protective wear for the ears can include headphones, earplugs, or earmuffs which provide a protective barrier. This reduces the amount and impact of loud noise. Exposure to loud noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss so wearing protective gear is a useful way to mitigate this risk.
- Reduce volume. Electronic devices can reach high volume levels that are hazardous for hearing health. Maintain lower volume settings on your devices. A helpful way to do this is by investing in noise cancellation headphones that reduce background noise, preventing you from increasing the volume on your device.
- Take listening breaks. Another simple tip is to take listening breaks throughout the day. The ears and brain are consistently working together to absorb and process incoming sound. Taking breaks allows the auditory system to rest and replenish. Try implementing 5-10 breaks where devices and other sources of sound are turned off.
You can start integrating these simple measures today to help protect your hearing. This month is a great time to take charge of your health. Call us today to schedule your appointment for a hearing test!