Each November, we observe American Diabetes Month. This honorary occasion is an opportunity to show respect for the many people involved in the fight against the disease. The people we honor do not only include those with diabetes and pre-diabetes but also the doctors and researchers who are working to find cutting-edge treatments, the caregivers who tirelessly work to provide those treatments, and the family members and loved ones who help support those with diabetes. If you are one of these people, let’s take time to celebrate your efforts against diabetes!
What are the practical things you can do to get involved in this month of awareness? In addition to learning about diabetes, taking part in spreading public awareness, donating to research efforts, and showing support for those you know with diabetes, you can also take a specific step that might come as a surprise: get a hearing test! How is hearing loss related to diabetes, you might wonder? Researchers and doctors have some good ideas about how the connection works in the body, but they rely on statistics to show that there is a powerful relationship.
Let’s explore this connection, as well as the way that your hearing test can contribute to the struggle against diabetes.
Hearing Loss as a Warning Sign
If you look at the population of people with diabetes, they have much higher rates of hearing loss than the general public. How much larger? A full double the rate! Few statistical correlations have this strong effect, so researchers are working tirelessly to find out how the connection works within the body. Even those with pre-diabetes have higher rates of hearing loss than those with blood glucose levels in the normal range. They have 30% higher rates of diabetes than the population without elevated levels.
So, what is the mechanism in the body connecting diabetes and hearing loss? The two prevailing theories are quite similar to one another. In one instance, experts point to the effect of diabetes on the blood vessels. Just as with the eyes and the kidneys, diabetes can do damage to blood vessels in an organ, reducing the supply of oxygenated, nutritious blood. This process might be taking place in the tiny blood vessels of the ears, as well.
Another possibility points more directly to the composition of the blood itself. When glucose levels are too high in the bloodstream, it might actually reduce the amount of oxygen and other nutrients that compose the blood. When the tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear called stereocilia are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, they can become permanently damaged or broken.
With these relationships in mind, hearing loss can even be considered a warning sign for diabetes. Along with other physical health issues, hearing loss can occur at the end of a chain reaction that started with diabetes. Although not all cases of hearing loss are caused by diabetes, it is a good way to alert your physician to the possibility.
Getting the Test
What can you do to take part in American Diabetes Month? One of the easiest steps you can take is to schedule a hearing test. When you make the appointment, you will be scheduling a consultation and full diagnostic exam regarding your hearing health. We will talk with you about the situations in which hearing is difficult.
Based on that consultation, we will perform a test to determine if you have lost hearing ability in any range of sound at various volumes. With these results in hand, we can determine if hearing assistance is necessary and what kind of hearing aids will be appropriate for your needs. Not only will this diagnostic exam be used to help you get treatment for hearing loss, but you can pass this information along to your physician, as well. If you are at high risk of diabetes or if you already have pre-diabetes, this information can be used to prompt further testing.
With these possibilities in mind, why not make the appointment today for your hearing test? You can encourage your loved ones to take this step, as well, helping them get treatment for hearing loss and potentially alerting them to the possibility of diabetes at the same time.