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 typically are not part of the regular regimen of care that people with diabetes are routinely recommended to receive.
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.
People with diabetes can take a quick and confidential online hearing test 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 34.25 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, 90 to 95 percent of people with hearing loss can
be helped with hearing aids—and their quality of life significantly improved.
Source: International Diabetes Federation
Diabetes is a chronic, potentially debilitating and often fatal disease. The disease occurs as a result of problems with the production and supply of insulin in the body. Either the body produces no or insufficient insulin (type 1 diabetes), or the body cannot use the insulin it produces effectively (type 2 diabetes). Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps "sugar" (glucose) to leave the blood and enter the cells of the body to be used as "fuel."
There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called insulin-dependent, immune-mediated or juvenile-onset diabetes. It is caused by an auto-immune reaction where the body's defense system attacks the insulin-producing cells. The reason why this occurs is not fully understood. People with type 1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin. The disease can affect people of any age, but usually occurs in children or young adults. People with this form of diabetes need injections of insulin
every day in order to control the levels of glucose in their blood. If people with type 1 diabetes do not have access to insulin, they die.
Type 2 diabetes is sometimes called non-insulin dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes do not usually require injections of insulin. Usually, they can control the glucose in their blood by watching their diet, taking regular exercise, oral medication, and possibly insulin. Type 2 diabetes is most common in people older than 45 who are overweight. However, as a consequence of increased obesity among the young, it is becoming more common in children and young adults. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes. If people with type 2 diabetes are not diagnosed and treated, they can develop serious complications, which can result in an early death.
Worldwide, many millions of people have type 2 diabetes without even knowing it. Others do not have access to adequate medical care. The onset of type 2 diabetes is also linked to genetic factors but obesity, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet increase the risks.
Some women develop a third, usually temporary, type of diabetes called "gestational diabetes" when they are pregnant. Gestational diabetes develops in two to five percent of all pregnancies, but usually disappears when the pregnancy is over. Women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on.
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 has some degree of hearing loss. It may reach 44 million by 2030.
- Only 14 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 make, on average, up to $23,000 less per year, depending on the degree of their hearing loss. Wearing hearing aids mitigates the loss in earnings about 50 percent.
- Nine out of ten hearing aid users report improvements in their quality of life, according to a survey by the Better Hearing Institute of more than 2,300 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, only one in five people who could benefit from hearing devices currently wear them. 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.
Founded in 1973, The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss to benefit from proper treatment. To receive a free copy of BHI's 28-page booklet "Your Guide to Better Hearing," visit its website at www.betterhearing.org
, or call the Better Hearing Institute hotline at 1-800-EAR-WELL.