Diabetes is one of the most common illnesses in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 29 million Americans currently suffer from the condition, which is nearly 10% of the population. The complications that can arise from diabetes are numerous, and many of them have been well documented. Recently, however, healthcare professionals and medical researchers have noticed that there may be a strong correlation between diabetes and hearing loss.
What is Diabetes?
Although diabetes is incredibly common, a lot of people don't understand how the disease works. When we eat, the carbohydrates that we ingest get broken down into sugars. The pancreas then produces insulin so that this sugar can be absorbed by the various tissues in the body. Unfortunately, people who have diabetes are unable to produce insulin, which can result in dangerously high levels of sugar in the blood.
These high blood sugar levels can eventually lead to a number of complications. For example, one of the most common problems is peripheral neuropathy, wherein extremities such as the feet don't receive enough blood, leading to numbness, pain or recurring ulcers. Additionally, diabetes is linked to high blood pressure, kidney disease, ketoacidosis and increased risk for strokes. Now, according to scientists, hearing loss could be on the verge of being added to that list.
Diabetes and Hearing Loss
Given diabetes' ability to wreak havoc on the body, it shouldn't come as a surprise that it could cause hearing problems. If the latest research is correct, then it would seem that high blood sugar levels cause damage to the delicate mechanisms of the body's auditory system. Over time, this damage results in impaired hearing ability.
Unfortunately, the scientific community has yet to reach a consensus on whether or not the correlation exists. According to researchers, the metrics used in studies examining diabetes and hearing loss haven't been consistent. For example, many studies examine patients with a wide variety of age ranges. In older patients, hearing loss could be due to a number of different factors, not necessarily diabetes, making it difficult to draw conclusions. However, when the testing pool is made up of younger patients, researchers have found that some connection is present.
Ultimately, more targeted, longitudinal studies will need to be performed to determine whether or not diabetes causes premature hearing loss. In the meantime though, researchers are recommending that patients with diabetes get an annual hearing test as part of their yearly physicals so that hearing loss can be tracked and corrective intervention can be taken.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!