Diabetes and Hearing Loss: Sugar isn’t Always so Sweet

When we hear about diabetes, it’s common to think about nerve damage, especially the kind that affects the feet and legs. Many diabetics develop infections in their lower extremities but aren’t aware of their seriousness, due to the numbing of diabetic nerve damage.

Such a combination of problems can lead to amputations for people with diabetes. Cardiovascular disease, damage to the kidneys and vision problems are also among the complications that can accompany diabetes. 

But what else in the human body depends on healthy blood flow and well-functioning nerves? The auditory system. Indeed, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop hearing loss than people without diabetes.

Much of our ability to hear is connected to the proper functioning of tiny blood vessels and nerve endings of the inner ear. High blood glucose levels are thought to have a damaging effect on those vessels and nerves.

Diabetes also appears to affect brainstem function with regard to balance, making some people more prone to falling.

There is quite a bit of evidence out there connecting diabetes and hearing loss. That’s why those of us in the hearing health profession tend to feel frustrated by the fact that diabetes-related hearing, far too often goes undiagnosed. The unhappy fact is that, even though the connection seems clear, diabetes patients aren’t tested for hearing loss on a routine basis. 

Given the prevalence of hearing loss among diabetics, it just seems wise to monitor their hearing as part of an annual health review. Hearing tests don’t cost much, they’re low-risk and can make a huge difference in quality of life or patients.

Don’t get us wrong. Hearing tests aren’t the answer to diabetes. But they can certainly contribute to keeping diabetes patients hearing clearly and enjoying better balance.

If you have a loved one with diabetes, please encourage them to speak with their doctor about getting a referral to a hearing health professional for testing. Don’t just suggest the hearing test; tell them to talk with their doctor. Positive recommendations from doctors about hearing solutions have been found to make people five times more likely to follow through on one.

There are a number of very unfortunate complications connected to diabetes. Hearing loss is one that can be very readily dealt with through proper testing and a thorough exploration of hearing health solutions.