As we turn back the clocks and the sun set earlier, it’s important to take advantage of the earlier nights by getting plenty of rest and turning inward. This can include an inventory of your health and a quiet time to catch up with your health. Aside from planning harvest meals and preparing for impending colder weather it’s time to consider your risk for diabetes. As one of the leading chronic health issues in the United States- 37 million people are considered diabetic in the US while nearly 90 million Americans qualify as prediabetic. Even more alarming is that, while one in five with diabetes don’t even know they have it, 80 percent of prediabetic patients are not aware they are at risk. This and every November is American Diabetes Month, a campaign sponsored by the American Diabetes Association to help raise awareness, promote screens, and encourage treatment of this serious and increasingly common condition. Unaddressed, diabetes can lead to a host of other health conditions, including heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, amputation, vision problems and even dementia. As hearing health professionals, we are concerned with the heightened risk of hearing loss, commonly underplayed, which doubles the risk.
The link between diabetes and hearing loss
Diabetes is a condition which affects the blood vessels and cells across the entire body. Sustained by blood sugar, also known as glucose – it’s the essential nutrients which provides the carbohydrates the cells rely on for healthy structure. The absorption of blood sugar into the cells is moderated via a hormone called insulin, which is created in the pancreas. However, for diabetic (type 2) and prediabetic patients, the insulin is not sufficient enough to properly receive nutrients from glucose. The result is resounding damage across the systems of the body. This includes the fragile structures of the inner ear.
Many studies have demonstrated that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss in comparison to those who don’t, even when age considered. Even those with prediabetes have a 30 percent higher risk of hearing loss compared to people with healthy blood sugar levels.
Examining the link between hearing loss and diabetes
When blood sugar levels spike and drop — varying widely beyond and below ‘normal’ levels — it creates a toxic environment for the cells of our body including those of the inner ear. Sound reaches our brain in a rather fragile way – via tiny hair like cells, which are incredibly susceptible to damage. When they are deprived to insufficiently supplies of oxygen rich blood or cells are constricted, it can escalate into irreversible cell damage, which interrupts the delivery of sound to the brain.
Ways to prevent further hearing loss
Untreated hearing loss unassumingly may be just as dangerous as diabetes and can even make the later condition worse. Those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to lead sedentary lives as they struggle to enjoy and stay being social. This can also lead to heightened rates of depression, cognitive decline and falls leading to serious health complications.
Often hearing loss and diabetes care can overlap. For instance, heart health is often closely related to both conditions. A healthy diet, rich in vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and fruits, while limiting processed sugars can go a long way in keeping your blood sugar at a safe level, as well as preserving hearing health. In addition, cardiovascular exercise, even three times a week for 25 minuets can support lower blood sugar and hearing health.
Celebrate American Diabetes Month with a Hearing Exam
If you have diabetes, avoiding potential hearing loss can be a further motivator in keeping your blood sugar levels close to your target as it can reduce the risk to the cells of the inner ear. This month, include regular screenings for diabetes to list of things to do for your overall care. If you do find that you are at risk or have diabetes, its recommended that along with a modified lifestyle and diet, that you include a hearing exam to you list of care. Take control of your health and schedule your next hearing exam now!