While people with diabetes are aware of the complications associated with the condition including nerve damage, eye problems, and heart diseases, recent studies have shown an unusual relationship between diabetes and hearing loss. The study indicated that people with diabetes are twice as prone to hearing loss than people living without diabetes.
On World Hearing Day, let us examine the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss.
How are diabetes and hearing linked?
Just like any other body part, the hair cells inside the ear have a lot to do with the blood circulation and overall well-being. These hair cells are responsible to translate the noise captured by the ear into electronic impulses which are then sent to the auditory nerve to the brain to interpret as a recognizable sound. These sensory hair cells, also known as stereocilia, do not regenerate. This means once destroyed or damaged, hearing is permanently affected. Although a hearing screening is then needed to determine the amount of hearing loss, the resulting sensorineural hearing loss can be treated with the help of hearing devices such as hearing aids and cochlear devices.
Although studies have shown that people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have experienced hearing loss, it is difficult to determine this relationship. There are multiple theories revolving around diabetes and hearing.
One of the theories states that prolonged levels of high sugar cause damage to blood vessels, including the small ones in the ear, thereby causing hearing loss. Another reason stated that could be the cause of this link is nerve damage. There is a possibility that high sugar levels cause damage to the auditory nerves leading to loss of hearing.
Diabetes and Hearing Loss: What are the signs?
The loss of hearing is a gradual process and is difficult to notice to such an extent that the brain could be compensating the sounds one might not be able to hear. Therefore, it is essential to identify the signs of hearing loss to take preventive steps. The signs of hearing loss are:
- Continuous hearing the mumble of people
- Frequently asking people to repeat
- Listening to audio at a volume level that is uncomfortable for others
- Difficulty in listening to a conversation
- Experiencing difficulty in hearing things at a loud place
- Frequently hearing rushing or ringing sounds
If one is experiencing either of the above-mentioned signs, it is essential to go for a hearing test.
What are the risk factors of hearing loss?
The risk factors involving people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes remain unclear. However, there has been a relationship between diabetes and hearing loss that can be seen in people who experience difficulty in managing blood sugar levels.
Although diabetes can be one of the risk factors involving hearing loss, here are the other risk factors:
- Exposure to loud noise such as an explosion
- Long-term exposure to loud noise
- Presence of foreign object or earwax
- Family history of hearing loss
- A structural problem in the ear
- Perforated eardrum
How to break the link between diabetes and hearing loss?
Although the cause of the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss is yet to be proven, effective diabetes management can help in breaking this link. Here are a few tips to protect your hearing and managing diabetes:
– Managing the blood sugar levels
Manage your blood sugar levels by making lifestyle changes to your daily routine. Meditation, diet, and exercise are important to achieve your sugar levels, thereby reducing the complications of diabetes, including hearing loss.
– Eating a healthy diet
Another important way to break the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss is by eating a healthy diet. In fact, research has shown that a varied healthy diet that involves limited fat and salt can protect you from hearing loss despite being exposed to loud noises. Include a lot of veggies, fruits, and veggies along with drinking lots of fluids.
– Reduce noise exposure
Wear earplugs or cover your ears whenever you are exposed to loud noises. Ideally, human ears can be exposed to noises that are at a maximum of 85 decibels or below. This is equivalent to the noise of a blow dryer or kitchen blender. One of the best ways to prevent hearing loss is to avoid places that are too loud.
– Lower the volume
Another important thing to be kept in mind is to lower the volume of radios, televisions, and tablets by half or less than the total volume. The signs that indicate the volume opted is loud are – you have to raise your own voice to be heard, you can’t hear someone who is three feet away, or you feel the sensation or mumbling in your ears.
– Avoid medications that prevent harm of hearing
Certain medications that are ototoxic in nature can impair hearing and affect your ears in the long run. There are about 200 medications with temporary or permanent ototoxic effects. Therefore, before taking any medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist about the same.
– Do not put foreign objects to clean your ear
Although cleaning of ears are recommended, it should be done in the outside and must be done gently. Do not put a cotton swab or any foreign object inside your ear canal to remove earwax.
– Go for a hearing screening often
It is important to go for regular hearing screenings. This will help to keep a check on the condition of your ear and prevent unpleasant news.
World Hearing Day is observed to raise awareness on ways to prevent hearing loss and promote hearing care across the world. Although we don’t know what contributes to hearing loss in people living with diabetes, on this day, let us all pledge to manage our sugar levels and monitor them regularly to avoid further complications.
Also read: what is dangerously low blood sugar