Question: My grandmother has problems hearing and also has had diabetes for years. I just went to the doctors and she said I had pre-diabetes. Is there any relationship between diabetes or pre-diabetes and hearing? What can I do to prevent hearing loss?
Answer: Your question is an excellent one! There have been excellent studies carried out on hearing loss in people with diabetes and pre-diabetes in the past five years. The National Institutes of Health in the United States, carried out one of these studies. They had over 5,000 participants and concluded that people with diabetes have more than twice the incidence of hearing loss as people without diabetes. The American Diabetes Association also estimates that people with pre-diabetes may have a 30 percent greater risk of having hearing loss than those without elevated blood sugar after fasting overnight.
Why do people with diabetes have more hearing loss? It is thought that blood glucose (sugar) levels that are higher than normal will damage nerves and blood vessels in the inner ear. So what should you do?
1. Know the signs of hearing loss. For a questionnaire that may help you determine of you need to have your hearing evaluated, go to Ten Ways to recognize hearing loss by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/10ways.aspx
2. Have a discussion with your physician on ways to keep your blood sugar under control. If you have not seen a certified diabetes educator (CDE), if you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, ask your physician for a referral.
3. Take good care of your hearing. Protect yourself from loud noises. Please go to the following website for more information. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/wiseears.aspx
Studies show that it is not unusual for many people to wait up to seven years before getting help if they have problems hearing. Please take care of yourself and talk to your doctor right away!
Thanks again for a great question.