A lot of people have diabetes. A lot of people with diabetes have hearing loss. What’s the connection between these two silent but devastating medical conditions?
Diabetes and hearing loss aren’t two conditions you expect to see in the same sentence. After all, what do blood sugar and sound have to do with each other?
More than we might think, according to research. For instance, hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes compared to those without diabetes.1
And that makes sense, when you remember that the bloodstream contributes to our ability to hear; hearing depends on small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear. Researchers are of the opinion that, over time, high blood glucose levels can damage those vessels and nerves, contributing to hearing loss. 2
Diabetes also appears to affect hearing and brainstem function, making some people more susceptible to falls.3
Despite such evidence, hearing loss in diabetes patients often goes undiagnosed. Why? Simply because diabetics aren’t tested for it as a matter of course.1
With diabetics being twice as likely than others to have hearing loss, it makes sense to monitor their hearing. In fact, there would seem to be enough evidence to suggest that doctors should make hearing tests as routine as vision tests in the annual diabetic health review.4
Hearing tests are low-cost, low-risk and can reveal the need to take action that can improve a patient’s communication, safety, and overall quality of life.4
They won’t cure diabetes, but hearing tests can certainly be useful in combatting the effects of diabetes on the body both by maintaining the ability to hear clearly and by contributing to better balance, preventing injury from falls.
Doctors need to be encouraged to factor hearing into their examination and diagnostic routine and to proactively refer patients to hearing professionals for the help they need. People with hearing loss are five times more likely to continue with a hearing solution if they are given a positive recommendation by their physician.5
Hearing loss may be an inevitable result for many people with diabetes, but it’s a result that can be well compensated for by proper treatment from certified professionals who are recognized as colleagues by doctors.