Posted on Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Hidden Link: Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Daughter whispers to her mother, "There is a hidden link between Diabetes and Hearing Loss."

Many people are aware of the dangers diabetes can mean to the physical health of the heart, circulatory system and eyes, but there is a lesser known but equally significant connection with hearing loss.

If you have diabetes, know or are related to someone with diabetes, you are probably familiar with the damage the disease can do to the circulatory system including the heart. What you might not know is that the same glucose overload that destroys other parts of the body can and does diminish 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.

Many times those who suffer from reduced hearing do so unknowingly, unaware that an untreated hearing loss has diminished their quality of life.

It is often assumed that a deficit in hearing would be quickly recognized by the individual, but in actuality the person suffering with hearing loss attributes the condition to 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 deficits in hearing can weaken a person’s ability to communicate and understand human language.

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

Decreased hearing function 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. Awareness of this issue must be raised by diabetics and their families as screening for hearing loss, unlike vision, is not among the current battery of test routinely given to diabetics. 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-48c8-bb3a-d4a0c1196ba8 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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