November represents Diabetes Awareness Month. Did you know that diabetes is one of the most common diseases that affects Canadians? Diabetes is another major area for concern within the research community. Researchers believe that individuals who have diabetes are twice as likely to develop hearing loss.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when blood sugar (glucose) is too high. Blood glucose represents our main source of energy and comes directly from the food we consume. Our pancreas naturally secretes a hormone called insulin that helps glucose from food get into our cells to be used for energy. In some cases, our bodies don’t make enough or any insulin. This causes the glucose to stay in the bloodstream and inhibits absorption by our cells. Over time, an overabundance of glucose can cause health related problems.
In 2015, roughly 3.4 million individuals reported being diagnosed with diabetes which represents 9.3% of our population. Diabetes Canada anticipates diagnosis rates will increase by 44% by 2025.
What health problems can people with diabetes develop?
Medical professionals have created a list of risk factors for developing hearing loss. Recently they have added diabetes to this list due to the prevalence of hearing loss diagnosed for individuals with diabetes.
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Ototoxic medications
- Loud Sudden Noise (explosions)
- Prolonged exposure to loud noise
Diabetes-related hearing complications tend to strike earlier than other risk factors. Research suggests a dose-response relationship. Having higher hemoglobin A1c results poses a greater risk of hearing loss.
How does diabetes affect my hearing?
Diabetes-related hearing loss has been studied and debated for decades. Some scholars believe that hearing loss results from damage to blood vessels in the inner ear. In addition, elevated blood sugar levels can also damage the hair cells and nerves surrounding the inner ear. The inner ear does not have a reserve supply of blood flow, leaving it vulnerable to elevated blood sugar levels. If the blood vessels are damaged, blood flow is reduced which can cause permanent damage to the structures within the inner ear.
What you can do to lower your risk of diabetes-related hearing loss
A healthy lifestyle and diet are the key to keeping A1c levels and blood glucose readings within their recommended ranges. Above all, reducing the risk of diabetes associated health complications will also reduce the risk of developing sensorineural hearing loss.
Diabetes Canada estimates that by 2050 nearly one third of the population will have diabetes. Furthermore, it is important that individuals with diabetes regularly screen their cardiovascular health as well as the health of their eyes, kidneys, and ears. Adhering to the recommended screening protocols can reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications and identify any problems that arise early. Responsible monitoring of the disease can delay or even prevent associated health complications.
If you have questions or concerns about your hearing health, contact one of our offices to schedule a hearing test.