Hearing loss due to diabetes and pre-diabetes is often overlooked. Most people are aware that hearing loss can be caused by aging, repeated exposure to loud noise, and even one very loud noise event, high blood sugar is not readily connected to hearing loss.
Prevalence of Diabetic Hearing Loss
According to Statistics Canada, In 2017, 7.3% of Canadians aged 12 and older (roughly 2.3 million people) reported being diagnosed with diabetes. A famous study, the Bainbridge study of 2008 looked at adults between the ages of 20 and 69 and found a higher odds ratio of 1.82 of having hearing loss in the diabetes population. This was found to be regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity, or education level.
People with prediabetes (higher blood sugar levels than normal but not type 2 diabetes levels) have a 30% higher rate of hearing loss than people with normal blood sugar levels.
Hearing loss is twice as common in people who have diabetes as it is in people of the same age who don’t.
The Mechanism of Hearing Loss in Diabetics
Diabetes commonly leads to nerve damage that affects many parts of the body. Most affected are the hands, feet, eyes, and kidneys. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the capillaries (small blood vessels) reducing blood flow while causing damage to the nerves in the inner ear. Conversely, low blood sugar over time can damage how the nerve signals travel from the inner ear to your brain.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss most often happen slowly over a long period of time. Gradual changes in hearing are hard to notice. It’s common to have friends and close family members notice a person’s hearing loss before they do.
Typical signs of hearing loss:
- Often asking others to repeat themselves.
- Trouble hearing conversations in places with noisy backgrounds (restaurants are a good example).
- Complaints of people are mumbling.
- Turning up the TV or stereo volume too loud for others who are nearby.
- Problems hearing in noisy places, such as busy restaurants.
The best way to speak with a person experiencing hearing loss is to be directly in front of them.
Prevention Hearing Loss from Diabetes
Like most problems associated with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is essential. Regular hearing tests are important as well. Every year, when booking an eye appointment to have your eyes checked for diabetes related complications, book a hearing test as well. Regular testing intervals help establish a trend in test results that makes diagnosis easier.
When you first find out you have diabetes, have your hearing tested to establish a baseline of your normal hearing levels.
Have You Had Your Hearing Tested?
As mentioned above, anyone with diabetes should consider having a hearing test once they are diagnosed. Having a reference level makes and early diagnosis much easier allowing for early treatment. To book a hearing test, send us a message through the form on this page or call us at (204) 788-1083. Thanks for reading!