diabetes and hearing lossPeople with diabetes are twice as likely to having hearing impairment as those who don’t have the disease, according to a study conducted by an epidemiologist at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The study also found that people with prediabetes have a 30 percent higher rate of hearing loss compared with people with normal blood glucose.

What is glucose, and how does it work in the body? Most of the food we eat turns into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas releases a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the body’s cells. Diabetes is a condition in which the body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin properly, resulting in sugars to build up in the blood. In prediabetes, the blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not in the diabetes range.

The Impact on Hearing

While there are no firm conclusions about how this disease is related to hearing loss, experts believe there is a connection. Just as diabetes can damage blood vessels in the eyes and kidneys, it’s believed the condition can similarly affect the tiny blood vessels in the inner ear, leading to symptoms like muffled sounds and reduced ability to understand speech.

In addition, a rise in blood glucose can cause nerve damage. This can cause tingling and other symptoms in the fingertips and toes, and could also result in a breakdown of nerves in the ears.

Protect Your Ears

People with diabetes or prediabetes might not realize they’re experiencing hearing loss because it can happen slowly. Family members and friends often notice it first because their loved ones inability to hear causes communication and relationship difficulties. Learn more about talking to loved ones about hearing loss.

The best way to protect your hearing from damage due to this condition is to maintain good control of your blood glucose levels. Taking prescribed medications, eating a healthy diet and exercising daily can reduce overall complications, including hearing loss.

Diabetes care also includes regular health checks. Because hearing complications from the disease are often overlooked, make sure to include hearing tests as part of the regular monitoring of your health.