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Reduce Risk of Diabetes and Hearing Loss

September 25, 2012

By John O’ Connor
Contributing Blogger

More than 40 percent of people with diabetes have some degree of hearing loss and are two times as likely to develop hearing loss according to National Institutes of Health (NIH). Most diabetes patients are aware that they can experience vision loss with diabetes, but many people are unaware that they can develop hearing loss as a result of diabetes. Thus, people with diabetes do not take preventative measures to prevent hearing loss. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), people with diabetes should consider having their hearing tested as a preventative measure.

If required, modern hearing aids can improve hearing levels and overall quality of life.  The best course of action is to avoid hearing loss by developing a healthy lifestyle to keep diabetes in check.

What is Diabetes?
Diabetes affects 21 million people in the United States and it is the major cause of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputations. Diabetes patients suffer from excessively high levels of blood glucose. Prediabetes, when a person has high blood glucose levels but not enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, affects 54 million adults in the U.S. Within the next 10 years, this population is expected to develop Type 2 diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association.

Diabetes is preventable however. Many people can prevent diabetes by increasing physical activity and cutting calories. Type 2 diabetes usually affects people over the age of 40. The disease is most common in overweight and sedentary people.  With a reduced risk of diabetes, there will also be a reduced risk of hearing loss.

How Diabetes Affects Hearing
Diabetes may damage the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear. Studies have examined diabetes patients posthumously and experts found evidence of ear damage in diabetes patients.

Diabetes affects the low, middle and high frequency hearing of patients. When evaluating a group of 399 adults with diabetes, 21 percent had mild or greater hearing impairment in the low and mid frequency sound range. By contrast, nine percent of 4,741 adults without the condition were affected with the same condition.

When evaluating high frequency hearing impairment, 54 percent of diabetes patients had some form of impairment compared to 32 percent who did not have the disease. A pure tone audiometry was used to measure hearing sensitivity across a range of frequencies.

Even pre-diabetes patients had a 30 percent higher rate of hearing loss compared to those tested after an overnight fast. According to a study of diabetes patients ages 20 to 69, diabetes patients can be affected with hearing loss as early as ages 30 to 40. The link between diabetes and hearing loss has been studied since the 1960s. The studies have also taken into account noise exposure, medications, ethnicity, income level, age and race.

Approximately, 17 percent of American adults or 36 million people are experiencing some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss seems to get progressively worse with age. Thirty percent of adults between the ages of 65 to 74 are affected by hearing loss. By contrast, eight percent of American adults 18 to 44 years of age.

Keep Diabetes in Check to Maintain Healthy Hearing Levels
Good health can promote healthy hearing levels. Patients diagnosed with diabetes should consult with their physicians to determine what measures they can take to prevent hearing loss when they are diagnosed. In general, a healthy diet with balanced sugar levels and exercise is recommended, but it is best to receive a customized plan from a physician or nutritionist who can cater to your specific needs. Consider scheduling an appointment with your physician to ensure you are taking every precaution to prevent hearing loss and diabetes.

John O’Connor is from Stoneham, Massachusetts and is a contributing blogger to MCNtalk. He has had a strong interest in hearing loss ever since his father and grandfathers were affected by hearing loss, along with other family members and friends.  He believes there is a general lack of understanding around the issue and is passionate about spreading awareness.  For more about John O’Connor, visit bloggingwjohno.blogspot.com

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