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Diabetes: Its Connection to Hearing Loss

Diabetes is an insidious, sneaky disease that often develops without any symptoms at least initially. It has the potential to cause harm to the body and, in some cases, diabetes especially untreated diabetes, can be fatal. Its nothing to fool around with, and certainly nothing to ignore. It doesnt go away by itself like a cold.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, lets take a closer look at this cunning condition before looking at the dangers this disease causes. Including, yes, hearing loss.

Whats Diabetes?

Your body uses the foods you eat for energy fuel to keep things running smoothly from head to toe. Food, during the digestive process, is converted to a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose then enters the blood stream, travels throughout the body and fuels everything from brain cells to big toe cells. The entire body, at the cellular level, is a glucose-gobblin machine.

So far so good. Now, in order for glucose to enter human cells, it requires something called insulin that is produced by an unattractive body organ called the pancreas. (No picture necessary, trust me.) If, for some reason, the pancreas stops producing insulin, doesnt produce enough insulin or, in some cases, produces too much insulin, you got yourself a problem.

Glucose cant feed cells without insulin and without food, cells die. Also, blood sugar increases its levels within the blood stream (no where to go) and this can lead to seizures, blackouts and, in extreme cases, death. OK, enough biology.

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

There are two basic types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

In cases of Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas shuts down insulin production completely. The shut-down is usually gradual, often taking years for noticeable symptoms to develop. However, even though there are no symptoms, diabetes is still doing damage to the body and you may not even know it.

Type 2 diabetes is different. In these cases, the pancreas produces insulin but its unusable. Cells dont respond to the insulin produced by the pancreas and you know that cant be a good thing.


Prevent Type 2 Diabetes and hearing loss with healthy habits

Whos At Risk For Diabetes?

The best way to avoid the ravages of diabetes over time is to prevent the disease and for many of us, thats pretty easy. For others, not so much.

Diabetes can be genetic, with individuals predisposed at birth to develop the condition. However, one of the most common causes of adult-onset diabetes is lifestyle. So changes in lifestyle can significantly SIGNIFICANTLY lessen the likelihood of ever developing the condition.

People who have unhealthy eating habits and are overweight as a result are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Sedentary lifestyles are also more likely to develop diabetes. Time to get off the couch and hit the streets for a brisk walk. It only takes 20 minutes a day.

So, for the most part, if you control your diet and move a little bit more, you will have better success at keeping Type 2 diabetes at bay for your lifetime. Now thats sweet. (Pun intended.)

Early Warning Signs of Diabetes

The medical community recommends that we look for nine signs of diabetes in the adult stage of life:

  • unexplained tingling or numbness in your hands, feet and legs
  • frequent urination
  • constant thirst
  • unexplained weight loss
  • weakness and fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • dry itchy skin
  • frequent bruising or skin infections
  • injuries that dont heal quickly

You dont have to experience all of the symptoms but if youre carrying around a few extra pounds, and you dont get a lot of exercise and you have three or four of the symptoms above, a visit to your physician is in order. A simple blood test will determine if you have diabetes and the earlier the condition is detected, the better the chances of living a long, happy, healthy and hearing life.

Study Links Diabetes to Hearing Loss

So what does diabetes have to do with hearing health? The National Institutes for Health (NIH), one of the most prestigious study groups worldwide, recently released the results of a study on the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss and the results proved what the medical and hearing communities had suspected for some time. The NIH report stated, unequivocally, that Hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease.

"Hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes. As diabetes becomes more common, the disease may become a more significant contributor to hearing loss," said senior [study] author Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), who suggested that people with diabetes should consider having their hearing tested. "Our study found a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes using a number of different outcomes."

The entire study, published online June 17, 2008 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, took place between 1999 and 2004. "The link between diabetes and hearing loss has been debated since the 1960s or before, and our results show that a relationship exists even when we account for the major factors known to affect hearing, such as age, race, ethnicity, income level, noise exposure, and the use of certain medications," noted Kathleen Bainbridge, Ph.D., of Social & Scientific Systems, Inc., one of the research companies involved in data collection and collation.

36 million Americans report that they experience some degree of hearing loss, with numbers increasing with age, as expected. But heres the thing: at least some of these individuals are in a pre-diabetic state. They experience the destructive effects of diabetes, chalking those aches, pains and dizzy spells to the natural process of ageing. Not necessarily so.


Hear better longer - get your hearing tested

Those symptoms may be caused by pre-diabetes or full-blown Type 2 diabetes. And if the disease is caught early enough, it can be managed by simple dietary changes and a little more thought to exercise.

Bottom line? If you or a loved one has diabetes, it is important to have annual hearing tests to monitor your hearing. Hearing loss can sneak up on you, just as Diabetes can. To find a hearing care professional near you visit Healthy Hearings Find a Professional Section (www.HealthyHearing.com).

If you dont have diabetes, practice preventative measures for a healthy life and healthy hearing. If you notice you arent hearing as well as you used to, it doesnt mean you have diabetes; however you should have your hearing evaluated.
Act early. Hear longer.

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