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If you are diabetic, studies warn to be aware of the threat of higher rate of hearing loss; here are tips

By Abbie McKinney
Beltone Florence

November is National Diabetes Month, and surprising to many – hearing loss is a prevalent comorbidity linked to the disease. Among multiple studies, researchers have discovered a higher rate of hearing loss in people with diabetes. Using tests that measure participants’ ability to hear at the low, mid and high-frequencies in both ears, the results indicate a link between diabetes and hearing loss at all frequencies. Also, diabetes mellitus patients have a moderately increased risk of future hearing loss, and screening for hearing loss allows for early medical intervention.

Additional studies from animal and humans support the independent relationship between diabetes and hearing loss. Human and animal evidence suggest potential for damage along the cochlea length from basal to apical regions. The distribution of changes along the cochlea may be related to the relative contributions of the array of mechanisms implicated in diabetes related hearing loss.

Microangiopathy may result in direct compromise of vascular supply to the inner ear; the apical region representing the most distal region of this supply may show pathology.

Studies show people with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss as non-diabetics.

According to the CDC, chronic high blood sugar levels may damage the nerves and small blood vessels in the inner ear. Over time, low blood sugar levels may also affect how nerve signals travel from the inner ear to the brain.

To protect ears and hearing in the diabetic community, be sure to:

1. Keep your blood sugar as close to your target levels as possible,

2. Get your hearing checked every year,

3. Avoid other causes of hearing loss, including loud noises,

4. Ask your doctor whether any medications you’re taking can damage hearing, and

5. Have your hearing tested when you first find out you have diabetes.

A full hearing screening will help determine the extent of hearing loss and treatments for those suffering from diabetes, such as hearing aids, which will improve overall quality both short and long term.

Abbie McKinney is a Hearing Instrument Specialist at Beltone Florence. She is a Type 1 diabetic who treats hearing loss for patients both with and without comorbidities like diabetes.

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