Each November, we devote the month to remembering American Diabetes Month. This disease affects not only the 34.2 million Americans with diabetes, nor the additional 88 million who have elevated blood glucose levels to be considered to have pre-diabetes. In addition to this already vast percentage of the population, we recognize the energy, efforts, and struggles of those who are providing care for these people. Whether working in an official capacity in the healthcare industry or working independently through home care of family members and loved ones, these caregivers are a crucial part of the picture of diabetes today.
When you think about this huge group within the population, you might feel ill-equipped to do anything about diabetes. The condition is sometimes difficult to diagnose, and treatments have varied effects depending on the other comorbidities in a person’s profile. With these realities in mind, did you know there is a simple test you can take to commemorate American Diabetes Month this November? You can make an appointment for a hearing test as a way to take part in the annual honorary month!
What is the relationship between hearing loss and diabetes, you might wonder? Let’s take a moment to find out what we do know about the statistical connection, as well as the broader questions we still have about the way these conditions are connected in the body.
The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Diabetes
Looking at the raw statistics, you will see that hearing loss and diabetes have a strong connection. A person who has diabetes is twice as likely to have hearing loss than a person who does not have diabetes. Those who have pre-diabetes are at higher risk, as well. The population of people with pre-diabetes has a 30 percent higher rate of hearing loss than the population of people without pre-diabetes. This connection is robust to other demographic differences, as well. You might ask yourself if there is another underlying condition that is linking diabetes to hearing loss, and indeed that might be the case. However, controlling for other factors does not wipe out the effect in the data that connects hearing loss with diabetes.
The Potential for New Research
With this statistical connection in mind, many are interested in understanding how the connection between diabetes and hearing loss occurs within the human body. Does one condition cause another? Are they both caused by something else? It turns out that researchers are continuing to explore these questions. Two theories prevail at present. The first theory points to the tiny blood vessels of the inner ear. The high glucose levels in the blood of people with diabetes or pre-diabetes may be doing damage to these blood vessels. With the blood flow constricted, the inner ear can suffer damage.
The other theory is a slight modification on the first. Perhaps instead of the damaged blood vessels leading to a depleted blood flow to the inner ear, the composition of the blood itself might be a cause of hearing damage. The tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear called stereocilia are responsible for transforming soundwaves into electrical impulses that travel to the brain. Without sufficient oxygen in the blood of a person with diabetes or pre-diabetes, it is possible that the stereocilia are deprived of what they need to function.
Testing and Treatment
As researchers continue to investigate the relationship between hearing loss and diabetes, you can take an active step toward getting the help you need. A hearing test is simple, easy, and painless, providing a thorough diagnosis of your hearing ability and treatment needs. When you have this diagnosis in hand, your hearing health professional can point you toward the right types of treatment that are suited to your individual condition.
Take the opportunity of this year’s American Diabetes Month to get a test for yourself and to encourage your loved ones to do the same. When you have the information you need about your hearing ability and the treatment that can help you, you will be well on your way to a future of stronger communication and enjoyment of the richly sounding world.