Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in Reno. It’s also one of the most under-diagnosed. People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing a number of long-term health complications; one of the most surprising is hearing loss.
Health Risks Associated with Diabetes
An estimated 30 million Americans have diabetes. Of that number, 23 million haven’t been diagnosed! Symptoms can be difficult to detect early on, but leaving the condition untreated increases the likelihood of developing a number of health complications. These include neuropathy, heart disease, kidney failure and blindness. People with diabetes have a life expectancy of 5-6 years lower than those without the disease due to the many associated health problems that could develop.
One of the lesser-known complications of diabetes is hearing loss. Research has shown a connection between the two, with diabetics in Reno twice as likely to develop a hearing impairment than their peers. Hearing loss is most likely to occur in patients aged 50-69; about 70 percent of individuals in this age bracket will be diagnosed with high-frequency hearing loss and one-third will have low- or mid-frequency hearing loss. Those with pre-diabetes (about 84 million people in the U.S.) aren’t off the hook, either; they are 30 percent more likely to develop hearing loss themselves.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why there is a correlation between diabetes and hearing loss, but it’s believed the elevated blood glucose levels that are a trademark of diabetes are to blame. They already cause damage to the eyes and kidneys, so it stands to reason that permanent damage to the hair cells of the inner ear that are responsible for converting sound into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain for interpretation could also occur due to elevated glucose. Another theory? Thickening of the kidney walls can cause organ failure in people with diabetes; the walls of the inner ear could be similarly affected, since they share a similar pathology with the kidneys.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, regular hearing tests should be an important part of your medical routine. The earlier hearing loss is detected, the better your chances of finding an effective long-term treatment (and the lower your risks of developing some of the health complications associated with untreated hearing loss; you’ve already got enough on your plate worrying about diabetes risks). If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes but have a higher risk (e.g., family history of the disease, obesity, sedentary lifestyle), you should schedule a hearing examination and keep on top of your hearing health.
Call LeMay Hearing & Balance at (775) 323-5566 for more information or to schedule an appointment.