Be aware: How diabetes could impact your hearing
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month - a time when healthcare practitioners and others come together to support those with diabetes and to educate people about how they can lower their risk of diabetes. Just like hearing loss, which affects 34 million Americans, diabetes is a widespread health concern that affects 26 million adults and children in the U.S. Additionally, 79 million Americans are affected with prediabetes and are at risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus affects almost 11 percent of the adult population in the U.S. There are two types of diabetes - a disease caused by elevated blood glucose levels. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas do not produce insulin at all. In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin or the body is resistant to the effects of insulin.
Lack of or resistance to insulin is highly problematic because insulin is the hormone that facilitates the movement of glucose - from the food we eat - into our cells. This causes the glucose to build up in the bloodstream.
Complications from diabetes can cause heart disease, kidney failure, eye problems and blindness, nerve issues, and can lead to amputations, among other health issues. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
Risk factors for diabetes Type 2 include being overweight, fat distribution in your body, family history of Type 2 diabetes, lack of exercise and being older than 45. Symptoms include unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, abrupt changes in vision, slow-healing sores, frequent infections, very dry skin, tingling in hands or feet, feeling tired too often and frequent urination.
Luckily, most people are able to control their diabetes through exercise, diet and insulin injections.
Hearing loss and diabetes
As it turns out, aside from the fact that they are both very common health issues in the U.S., hearing loss and diabetes are linked in another way. A 2012 review of 13 previous studies revealed that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes than people who do not have diabetes. Additionally, hearing loss among the 79 million adults with prediabetes is 30 percent higher than the rate of those with normal blood glucose levels.
Researchers aren't exactly sure what accounts for this connection, but many hypothesize that it is due to nerve and blood vessel damage throughout the body from poor blood sugar control, which affects the nerves that help us interpret sound. Still, there is much more research to be done to improve causation - currently, there's a strong correlation.
Protect yourself from diabetes
You can lower your risk for diabetes by eating healthfully, getting the recommended amount of exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. If you want to get an idea of your risk for diabetes, take the American Diabetes Association's Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test.