Studies Show Higher Rates of Hearing Loss for People with Diabetes

Studies Show Higher Rates of Hearing Loss for People with Diabetes
Dr. Steinberg

Your hearing ability is one part of the complex web of functions in the body, and you might be surprised how a change in one part of the body can lead to a domino rally affecting others. Just like that trail of chain reactions connecting one domino to another far away, your body responds to changes in one system, organ, or function with changes in others. In the case of hearing loss, many other changes in the body can occur at the same time, and researchers are curious to understand how these changes are related to one another. In some instances, one change in the body might cause a change in another aspect. In other instances, there is a third factor that causes changes in two conditions at once. When it comes to hearing loss and diabetes, researchers continue to investigate the statistical connection they have observed. Let’s look at the relationship that has been discovered, as well as some theories about how hearing loss and diabetes might be connected. 

Links between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

A recent Canadian study builds on a growing body of knowledge about the connection between hearing loss and diabetes. The study, conducted by the Canadian National Institutes of Health, found that those who have diabetes have at least a 30 percent higher chance of hearing loss than their counterparts who have normal blood sugar levels. This finding builds on existing research that confirms this statistical connection between hearing loss and diabetes. Why are these conditions connected in this way? Further research is necessary to understand exactly how the domino rally works in the body, but we do know a few things about hearing loss, diabetes, and blood sugar. One possibility is that higher blood sugar levels make it difficult for the bloodstream to carry enough oxygen to the ears. When the ears do not receive the oxygen they need, the tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear, called stereocilia, can become bent, broken, or otherwise damaged. This damage tends to be irreparable, and treatment in the form of hearing aids is the best solution. Another possibility is that high blood sugar has an impact on the auditory nervous system. This system connects the inner ear with the brain, making it possible to detect and interpret sound. When high blood sugar interferes with the auditory nervous system, our ears might be doing their job as before, but the brain is no longer able to clearly interpret that sound. 

Diabetes Prevention

If you are concerned about this potential connection, there are steps you can take to prevent diabetes before it begins. With any health plan, it is important to work under the care of a doctor, and you will not want to make any abrupt changes to your lifestyle without consulting a doctor first. When you are ready to modify your lifestyle, nutrition and exercise are two of the first steps you can take toward better health and diabetes prevention. Research has shown that a diet rich in nutritive whole foods and low in saturated fats, refined sugars, and processed food, more generally, is a good approach to diabetes prevention. Monitoring sugar consumption can be a delicate balance, and you will want to make sure not to disturb your current blood sugar balance without a doctor’s guidance. Exercise is a good way to promote healthy processing of sugars, as well. When you think of exercise, you might imagine miles on the treadmill and hours at the gym. Although there’s nothing wrong with that approach to physical fitness, there are steps you can take right at home and in your neighborhood to improve physical wellbeing. Taking a lunchtime walk around the neighborhood or taking the stairs rather than the elevator are two simple steps that can help you improve your body’s ability to process sugar in the bloodstream. A holistic approach to health has benefits not only for diabetes prevention but also for your future hearing ability. Getting regular hearing tests is another important aspect of your health plan, making it possible to diagnose changes in your hearing ability and to implement treatment when it becomes necessary.