Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012

Hearing Loss: Diabetics at Risk

Woman discusses her diabetes and hearing loss with her doctor.

Diabetes can cause hearing loss. The same glucose overload that destroys other parts of the body can and does diminish an individual's hearing. According to a study conducted under the National Institute of Health (NIH) by Bainbridge et al. and reported on in the Annals of Internal Medicine, hearing loss is more than twice as likely among diabetics and it's not just older diabetics at risk.

Diabetes can impact hearing at any age.

Hearing loss due to diabetes is not confined to older diabetics. It has been evidenced in children and people as young as 30, inhibiting communicative abilities with severity ranging from mild to moderate levels. This insipid deterioration slowly ensures that a good deal of the auditory world is inaccessible to a diabetic individual, cutting them off little by little. Surprisingly, diabetics who suffer from hearing loss often do so unknowingly, unaware that untreated hearing loss has diminished their quality of life.

Do you have hearing loss?

It is often assumed that any loss of hearing would be quickly recognized by an individual, but in actuality a person suffering with hearing loss is more likely to deny the problem. It is common for someone with hearing loss to attribute missing or misinterpreting what has been said to the noise levels in the room or to “mumbling” of those they are trying to understand. According to Mac Butts, audiologist, the average length of time for a person to recognize and seek aid for their hearing loss is “five years”. This is a startling fact considering how much a hearing deficit can weaken a person’s awareness of impending danger and their ability to communicate. It's important that people with diabetes visit their hearing health professional regularly, to avoid other long term risks now associated with hearing loss, including Alzheimer's and dementia.

“Diabetes may be prematurely aging the ear.” (Bainbridge et al., 2008).

The need to be aware of hearing loss is up to the diabetic individual and their families, because, unlike vision, screening for hearing problems is not among the current battery of test routinely given to diabetics. Hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids. Advances in technology and testing make diagnosing and treating hearing loss relatively easy and cost effective, thus making limited information and insufficient risk evaluation in healthcare two of the greatest reforms needed to improve the auditory health of a diabetic.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

Bainbridge, K., Hoffman, H., & Cowie, C. (2008). Diabetes and hearing impairment in the United States: Audiometric evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 to 2004. Annals of Internal Medicine, 149, 1–10. taken from http://www.annals.org/content/149/1/54.full.pdf+html?sid=89eb4779-73fb-4... on September 25,2011

Auditory Function in Young Patients with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus. Ferrer JP, Biurrun O, Lorente J, Conget JI, de España R, Esmatjes E, Gomis R. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 1991 Jan; 11(1):17-22

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