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Posted on Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Diabetes: Preventing Hearing Loss

Blurry train station with commuters who should check their hearing.

Vision problems caused by diabetes are well known, but many people remain unaware of how diabetes impacts hearing. Diabetics experience hearing loss at more than double the rate of those without diabetes. This happens, in part, because of the changes in capillaries due to glucose overload. The slowing of blood flow in diabetics means fewer nutrients to the ear and this can lead to atrophy and destruction of the auditory hair cells. There are steps diabetics can take to help maintain hearing, capillaries, and the flow of nutrients to hair cells.

Glucose overload means diabetics are more likely to suffer from hearing loss, but there are seven proven ways to protect hearing and help prevent hearing loss:

  1. See your hearing health professional! Unlike sight, hearing is not among the current battery of test routinely given to diabetics. All diabetics should be screened for hearing loss. If you don’t have an audiologist, follow this link to find one. When you go to see your Au.D or ENT mention your diabetes and request he/she administer an Otoacoustic Emissions test to check the condition of the delicate hair cells within the inner ear.
  2. Follow the 80 for 90 rule, listen to your MP3 or other personal listening device, at no higher than 80% of the maximum volume for no longer than 90 minutes to shield the delicate inner ear hair cells. Remember the childhood age, too loud, too long, too close!
  3. Protect your ears in noisy situations. If you know that you are going to be in a place with excessive noise, either at work, doing lawn care, or at a club make sure to take the extra precaution of protecting your ears. Invest in earplugs, keep them on you at all times, and wear them to protect your hearing in loud situations.
  4. This may seem obvious, but treat your diabetes. According to National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, fifty-eight percent of people diagnosed with diabetes do not receive the necessary treatment. Untreated diabetes leads to a greater risk of hearing loss due to glucose overload.
  5. Clean your ears regularly, but do not swap, insert foreign objects—this means your finger, or use hydrogen peroxide. It’s best to use gentle, physician recommended, solutions to break up earwax, and it is important to break up earwax, because one of the ways diabetes affects hearing is through the loss of keratin—which helps to clean out the ear canal. According to Sugardiabetes.net, “Diabetics tend to have a lack of keratin protein which forms a protective layer within the ear canal, enabling wax to travel outwards.”
  6. Take your vitamins. Deficiency in nutrients, like B12 and folic acid can impair hearing by as much as 39% while increasing these nutrients, according to some studies, can protect hearing by as much as 20%. Read more about nutrients needed to prevent hearing loss HERE.
  7. If you’ve already experienced hearing loss due to diabetes, use a hearing aid. Lack of sensory information in your ears can result in tinnitus and brain atrophy. As Dr. Jonathan Peelle pointed out in the post Improving Memory through Hearing Aids, “Our brains have to work with whatever the ears pass along. If someone has poorer hearing, the quality of this information won’t be as good, and that is going to impact how our brains deal with it.”

    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!

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