Hearing loss ranks as one of the most common chronic public health issues in the country. This is perhaps in some respect due to the pervasiveness of age related hearing loss in people over the age of 65. Adjusting to life after a hearing loss can take a little time, but most people are able to lead full and meaningful lives once they seek intervention. However, recent studies suggest a link between hearing loss and diabetes, urging folks with this widespread condition to monitor their risk for developing additional health problems.
What might be most alarming is the rise of diabetes in the American population over the past few decades, particularly among children. We can’t yet know what effect this will have on the rate of hearing loss for years to come.
Isolating the link
For many years, there have been reports linking these two chronic health conditions. While many have noted the increase in risk, it was an analyzation of thirteen hearing loss studies by a team of Japanese researchers that stated the risk of developing diabetes was twice as high for people with hearing loss. Published in 2012, the study shows a strong correlation between the two but cannot claim a cause-and-effect link because it was purely an observational study. However, it does raise serious cause for further inquiry into the connection.
Causes of correlation
The most compelling explanation for the link between hearing loss and diabetes is the effect that high blood sugar can have on blood vessels in the body. When a diabetic condition isn’t monitored closely and blood sugar levels controlled, it can wreak havoc on these extremely important cells. And we’ve long known that restricted blood flow to the inner ear can cause irreparable damage the delicate systems that govern our ability to hear clearly.
What is most perplexing about the observational study, though, is the finding that linking diabetes and hearing loss doesn’t necessarily coincide with older participants. In fact, the link was even weightier in a younger observational group, where people with diabetes had a 2.6 higher risk of hearing loss.
One might suggest that the older population were more likely to responsibly manage their diabetes and thus somewhat reduce the risk of hearing impairment. But the finding so strongly contradicting conventional explanations for the connection does require additional and more focused study of the issue.
Get it checked out
One way to make sure that you don’t become a statistic supporting the link is to be aware of what early signs of both hearing loss and diabetes look like. The early warnings of age related hearing loss, in which the auditory system simply wears out slowly and progressively over time can be surprising. Instead of a general lowering of overall volume, sounds actually first simply appear distorted. Someone with early hearing loss may ask people to repeat themselves more frequently or misunderstand a growing number of conversations.
Early warning signs of diabetes are noticing that you are hungrier or thirstier than usual. You also may experience greater levels of fatigue more frequently. Feeling dehydrated and experiencing blurred vision are also often reported in the earlier stages of diabetes.
The great news is that both of these conditions are easily diagnosed and intervention is possible after a simple test!
Make healthy changes
Of course, prevention is always the best medicine. While folks recently diagnosed with hearing loss can easily slip into unhealthy eating habits as a way to help improve their mood or provide comfort, staying healthy across the board is actually a better coping mechanism. Reaching for a sugary treat might be a good quick fix in the moment, but turning this strategy into a long-term habit can actually compound your health problems.
If you’re living with hearing loss, schedule a check-in with a dietician. They can assist you in making sure that among the myriad of better choices you’re now making for a healthier hearing life include better choices for your nutritional life, too. A better diet and regular exercise goes beyond diabetes prevention, too. Giving your body the fuel and nutrients it needs can lift your mood, just as a refreshing bout of exercise can also do wonders for your mindset.
Experiencing changes with your hearing? Visit us at Arizona Balance and Hearing Aids for a consultation.