Diabetes and Hearing Health
Hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Yet hearing screenings oftentimes are not part of the regular regimen of care that people with diabetes routinely receive. Nor do many doctors in today’s health care system include hearing health as a routine part of annual exams.
The NIH-funded study found a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes. The link between diabetes and hearing loss was evident across all frequencies, with a stronger association in the high frequency range. And an association between diabetes and hearing impairment was evident as early as ages 30 to 40.
Adults with pre-diabetes, whose blood glucose is higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis, had a 30 percent higher rate of hearing loss compared to those with normal blood sugar tested after an overnight fast.
Diabetes may lead to hearing loss by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear, the study researchers suggest. Autopsy studies of diabetes patients have shown evidence of such damage.
Another, recent study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit found women between the ages of 60 and 75 with well-controlled diabetes had better hearing than women with poorly controlled diabetes, with similar hearing levels to those of non-diabetic women of the same age. The study also shows significantly worse hearing in all women younger than 60 with diabetes, even if it is well controlled.
People with diabetes can take a quick and confidential online hearing check today, at www.hearingcheck.org, to determine if they need a comprehensive hearing check by a hearing professional.
About Hearing Health
One of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today, hearing loss affects more than 34 million Americans—most of whom are below retirement age.
Hearing loss can strike at any time and at any age. And when left unaddressed, hearing loss can affect virtually every aspect of an individual's life. Numerous studies, in fact, have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, avoidance or withdrawal from social situations, social rejection and loneliness, reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety, impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced job performance and earning power, and diminished psychological and overall physical health.
Despite the far-reaching impact hearing loss has on so many aspects of an individual's life, many people who are aware that their hearing has deteriorated are nevertheless reluctant to seek help. Unfortunately, too many wait years, even decades, before getting treatment, becoming more and more disconnected as time goes by.
But the fact is that with modern advances in technology, there are solutions for many. In fact, the vast majority of people with hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids—and their quality of life significantly improved.
Source: American Diabetes Association
Diabetes is a serious disease that strikes nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States, and a quarter of them—7 million—do not even know they have it. An additional 79 million, or one in three American adults, have prediabetes, which puts them at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, diagnosis often comes 7 to 10 years after the onset of the disease, after disabling and even deadly complications have had time to develop. Therefore, early diagnosis is critical to successful treatment and delaying or preventing some of its complications such as heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke, amputation and death.
Everyone should be aware of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. People who are overweight, under active (living a sedentary lifestyle) and over the age of 45 should consider themselves at risk for the disease. African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and people who have a family history of the disease also are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed by losing just 7% of body weight (such as 15 pounds if you weigh 200) through regular physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week) and healthy eating. By understanding your risk, you can take the necessary steps to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
To learn more about diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss
The signs of hearing loss can be subtle and emerge slowly, or they can be significant and come on suddenly. Either way, there are common indications.
Socially, individuals with hearing loss may:
- require frequent repetition;
- have difficulty following conversations involving more than two people;
- think that other people sound muffled or mumble;
- have difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meeting rooms;
- have trouble hearing children and women;
- keep the TV or radio turned up to a high volume;
- answer or respond inappropriately in conversations;
- have ringing in their ears; and/or
- read lips or more intently watch people's faces when in conversation.
Emotionally, individuals with hearing loss may:
- feel stressed from straining to hear what others are saying;
- feel annoyed at others because they can't hear or understand them;
- feel embarrassed when meeting new people or after misunderstanding what others are saying;
- feel nervous about trying to hear and understand; and/or
- withdraw from social situations that they once enjoyed.
Medically, individuals with hearing loss may:
- have a family history of hearing loss;
- take medications that can harm the hearing system (ototoxic drugs);
- have diabetes, heart, circulation, or thyroid problems; and/or
- have been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period or suffered a single exposure to explosive noise.
Eye-Opening Facts about Hearing Loss
- Approximately one in 10 Americans, or 34 million people have some degree of hearing loss.
- Fewer than 15 percent of physicians today ask patients if they have any hearing problems.
- People with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and less likely to participate in organized activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids, according to a survey by the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) of 2,300 hearing-impaired adults, age 50 or older.
- Untreated mild to moderate hearing loss is associated with short-term memory loss, according to a Brandeis University study.
- People with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss and are twice as likely to experience unemployment as their peers who use hearing aids on the job. Use of hearing aids reduces the risk of income loss by 90 to 100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 to 77 percent for those with severe to moderate hearing loss.
- 75% of hearing aid users report improvements in their quality of life specifically due to wearing aids, according to a survey by the Better Hearing Institute of close to 2,000 consumers.
Seeking Help for Hearing Loss
Hearing aids hold such great potential to positively change so many lives. And advances in digital technology have dramatically improved hearing aids, making them smaller than ever with far better sound quality. Nevertheless, 40% of people with moderate or worse hearing loss who could benefit from hearing devices currently wear them; and only 9% of those with mild hearing loss. The Better Hearing Institute encourages all people with a hearing loss to seek assistance from a hearing healthcare professional and to explore the options for improving their hearing—and their lives.