Diabetes is a huge health concern not only in Arizona, but across the United States. An estimated 30 million American adults have been diagnosed with the disease and another 84 million have prediabetes – significantly increasing their risk of developing diabetes within the next five years. Roughly one in ten people have diabetes in Tucson; if you are one of them, then you probably are familiar with the many health risks associated with the disease. Did you know that hearing loss is one of them?
Why is Diabetes Associated with Hearing Loss?
Diabetic patients must contend with a number of serious and potentially debilitating health issues including neuropathy, blindness, cardiovascular disease, and kidney failure. Researchers have also discovered a strong link between diabetes and hearing loss.
The reason for this correlation isn’t entirely clear, but researchers have theories. It is likely that the elevated blood glucose levels – a hallmark of the disease – are to blame. Just as high glucose levels cause damage to the eyes and kidneys, they may also harm the blood vessels of the inner ear, leading to irreparable damage to the hair cells of the cochlea and resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Another possibility? Diabetes contributes to a thickening of the walls in the kidneys that can lead to organ failure. Because the pathology of the inner ear is similar to that of the kidneys, it stands to reason that the walls of the inner ear could experience the same effects.
Statistics show that persons with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss. Those aged 50-69 are most likely to have impaired hearing; about 70 percent in this group are diagnosed with high-frequency hearing loss, and one-third have low- or mid-frequency hearing loss. They aren’t the only ones at risk; individuals in Tucson with prediabetes are 30 percent more likely to develop hearing loss as those without the disease.
Prevention is Key
Considering that roughly 25 percent of diabetic patients are undiagnosed, hearing loss has the potential to become a widespread and serious problem. Early medical intervention offers the best long-term outlook for preventing hearing loss or lessening its effects, so anybody diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, or at risk for the disease – those who are overweight, inactive, or have a family history, for example – should undergo regular hearing screenings.
For more information on the link between diabetes and hearing loss, or to schedule a hearing screening, contact your Tucson audiologist today.