This post is part of our new “Hearing Loss is Not Harmless” series. This series of posts will walk through several common physical, mental and emotional health conditions that have been found to cause—or be caused by—hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Diabetes
In addition to the 48,000,000 adults in America living with hearing loss1, there are over 29,000,000 adults in America who have diabetes2. But that number is rising at a staggering rate: nearly 2,000,000 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed each year3.
That means, on top of all the other causes of hearing loss, about 2,000,000 more people each year are finding themselves at risk for developing hearing loss due to complications from diabetes. The most common type of hearing loss in diabetes patients is sensorineural hearing loss, which may be caused by damaging microangiopathy4, or restricted flow to the small blood vessels of the inner ear5.
Why should you care? Because hearing loss is a common early indicator of diabetes. So, if you’ve started noticing some signs of hearing loss (even if you won’t admit it to anyone), something even more serious—like diabetes—could be to blame.
In fact, hearing loss is twice as common in adults with diabetes and occurs at a 30% higher rate in those with prediabetes symptoms6. (If you’re unfamiliar, prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal, leading to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.)
And hearing loss is certainly not harmless.
Untreated hearing loss contributes to an increased risk of:
- Alzheimer’s or other dementia, by up to 500%7
- Falling, by up to 300%8
- Prolonged illness or injury, by 36%9
- Depression or deep stress, by 57%9
- Hospitalization, by 32%9
Hearing loss is more than just an inconvenience; it could be an early indicator of the onset of diabetes and its complications, and allowing even mild hearing loss to go untreated can have major consequences on your physical, mental and emotional health.
Be sure to ask your primary care physician to perform a hearing test if you’ve been experiencing signs of hearing loss and find out if a serious condition, such as diabetes, could be to blame. If necessary, your doctor can also refer you to an audiologist to discuss treatment options.
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1. Hearing Loss Association of America <http://www.hearingloss.org/content/basic-facts-about-hearing-loss> last accessed 9/9/15.
2. The Centers for Disease Control <http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/statsreport14/national-diabetes-report-web.pdf> last accessed 10/8/15.
3. The American Diabetes Association <http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics> last accessed 10/8/15.
4. Kakarlapudi, V., Sawyer, R., Staecker, H. (2003) The Effect of Diabetes on Sensorineural Hearing Loss. Otology & Neurotology, 3, 382-386. Abstract located online at <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12806288#> last accessed 10/8/15.
5. Vanderbilt University Medical Center <http://www.vanderbilthealth.com/billwilkerson/27939> last accessed 10/8/15.
6. The American Diabetes Association <http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/seniors/diabetes-and-hearing-loss.html> last accessed 10/8/15.
7. Lin, F. R., Metter, E. J., O’Brien, R. J., Resnick, S. M., Zonderman, A. B., & Ferrucci, L. (2011). Hearing loss and incident dementia. Archives of Neurology, 68, 214–220. Cited on the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website at <http://www.asha.org/Aud/Articles/Untreated-Hearing-Loss-in-Adults/> last accessed 9/24/15.
8. Johns Hopkins Medicine <http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_three_fold_risk_of_falling> last accessed 10/8/15.
9. Johns Hopkins Medicine <http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_in_older_adults_tied_to_more_hospitalizations_and_poorer_physical_and_mental_health> last accessed 10/8/15.