In an effort to better understand the mystery of the human body and the complex way in which it works, scientists continue to research the connections between various bodily systems and known human diseases. Diabetes is one condition that has been shown through several research studies to have a strong association with hearing impairment.
Research studies on diabetes and hearing loss
Some statistics indicate there are about 30 million people in the U.S. with diabetes, and 34.5 million with some degree of hearing loss or impairment. That represents a good portion of the entire population! Furthermore, there appears to be some overlap between the two groups, meaning that many people diagnosed with diabetes also have hearing loss.
One study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) revealed that individuals with diabetes were two times as likely to have hearing loss as those without the disease. Therefore, it is highly recommended that diabetics have their hearing tested by a hearing healthcare professional.
The findings of the NIH study were similar to those of studies presented by the American Diabetes Association as well as one published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The bottom line is that there are enough studies with similar results to conclude that there is definitely a connection between diabetes and hearing loss – finding out exactly what the connection is appears to be the research focus next.
How are diabetes and hearing loss connected?
It is still unclear exactly what causes the relationship between hearing loss and diabetes, but it is thought that the disease may damage nerves and blood vessels within the inner ear, resulting in hearing impairment.
No matter what the cause, it is important to investigate hearing changes as soon as they are discovered. When the trigger for hearing loss or other impairment is determined, an appropriate treatment plan can then be implemented.
Signs of hearing impairment
If you or a loved one has diabetes, here are a few signs that might indicate the presence of hearing loss:
- Difficulty understanding speech – This can be especially noticeable in large crowds or areas where there is a lot of background noise.
- Asking others to repeat themselves – Sometimes we just don’t hear what other people are saying, but if you find that you’re frequently asking others to repeat what they just said, it might be time for a hearing evaluation.
- Turning up the volume – If others complain that you’re turning up the volume on the TV or radio too much, it’s probably an indicator that your hearing ability is changing and you might be experiencing hearing loss.
- Difficulty hearing certain voices – Women and children tend to have voices that are higher pitched than others, making these difficult to hear if someone has hearing loss in the upper ranges.
What to do if you suspect you have hearing loss
If you start to notice changes in your hearing, no matter how subtle, it’s good to start with a simple hearing test with a hearing professional. Based on the results of that test, a more thorough evaluation might be necessary. Many hearing impairments can be easily treated, and further hearing loss might be preventable, so don’t be stubborn and wait too long – your hearing is too precious to lose!