In the U.S., over 37 million people have diabetes, roughly 34.5 million have hearing loss, and many have both.
- The prevalence of hearing loss in people with diabetes is 2X greater than in nondiabetics.
- For prediabetes, which affects 133 million Americans, hearing loss is 30 percent higher than for people with normal blood-sugar levels.
- One hypothesis: Diabetes damages blood vessels in the inner ears like the harm it inflicts on the eyes and kidneys.
Why it matters
If you have diabetes or prediabetes, your risk of hearing loss is much higher. Schedule annual hearing screenings because damage to the brain created by hearing loss is permanent.
- Researchers at Johns Hopkins confirm that mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss doubles, triples, and quadruples the risk of dementia.
- The University of Oxford researchers discovered that deficient speech-in-noise hearing was associated with a 91% increased risk of developing dementia.
- The problem: Most hearing loss takes place slowly. It's something you don't notice. Nevertheless, the loss is actual, and so is the damage to your brain. Family and friends often notice the hearing loss before you do.
Six ways to protect your hearing
If you have diabetes, our team of audiologists recommends you adopt the following six-step plan for preserving your hearing:
- Manage your blood sugar levels effectively.
- Know the signs of hearing loss and monitor them (see typical symptoms in the next section).
- Schedule annual hearing screenings. The CDC recommends you have your hearing tested by an audiologist when first diagnosed with diabetes, followed by yearly screenings. You may be unaware that you have lost hearing, but you can test for it.
- Share your hearing-screening results with your primary care team.
- Protect your hearing. Wear hearing protection when needed (download Sound-Level Scale). Ask your audiologist for help selecting hearing protection and using it effectively.
- Treat any hearing loss you already have as soon as possible. Hearing loss makes permanent changes to brain structures. You want to limit the scope and size of these changes.
Six ways to tell if you've lost hearing
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves
- Trouble following conversations that involve more than two people
- Thinking that others are mumbling
- Problems hearing in noisy places such as busy restaurants
- Trouble hearing the voices of women and small children
- Turning up the TV or radio volume too loud for others who are nearby
Call to schedule your annual hearing screening
All adults can safeguard their hearing with yearly hearing screenings, but if you have diabetes or prediabetes, your risk of hearing loss is much higher. Make annual screenings part of your complete plan for managing diabetes. At Sertoma Speech & Hearing Centers, hearing screenings are free, take only 15 minutes, and are performed by audiologists.