Hearing Loss Under-Recognized Complication of Diabetes

Hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Diabetes may lead to hearing loss by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear, research suggest. Autopsy studies of diabetes patients have shown evidence of such damage. (See my earlier post ‘Diabetes and Hearing Loss’ here.)

Yet hearing screenings typically are not part of the regular regimen of care that people with diabetes are routinely recommended to receive. Nor do the vast majority of doctors in today’s health care system include hearing health as a routine part of annual exams.

Hearing loss is one of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today, and affects more than 34 million Americans. Six out of ten Americans with hearing loss are below retirement age.

“Hearing loss affects virtually every aspect of a person’s life, making it all the harder for people with diabetes to cope with their disease,” says Sergei Kochkin, PhD, the Better Hearing Institute ‘s executive director. “A hearing check is invaluable in determining whether or not someone with diabetes does have a hearing loss and will help to ensure that they get the treatment they need.”

“Hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes. As diabetes becomes more common, the disease may become a more significant contributor to hearing loss,” says senior author Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), who suggests that people with diabetes should consider having their hearing tested. “Our study found a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes using a number of different outcomes.”

[In fact, recent research, reported this month in the American Journal of Kidney Disease, found persons suffering from moderate chronic kidney disease (a complication attributable to diabetes as well) are likely to have hearing loss and should receive regular screenings. Specifically the study found 54.4 percent of all the patients in the study with moderate CKD had some degree of hearing loss.]

Adults with pre-diabetes, whose blood glucose is higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis, had a 30 percent higher rate of hearing loss compared to those with normal blood sugar tested after an overnight fast.

Besides, numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, avoidance or withdrawal from social situations, social rejection and loneliness, reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety, impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced job performance and earning power, and diminished psychological and overall health.

BHI is highlighting the connection between diabetes and hearing health and is urging all Americans to take the Diabetes Risk Test and the Across America Hearing Check Challenge on American Diabetes Association Alert Day℠. This year, Diabetes Alert Day is on March 22 and kicks off the “Join the Million Challenge”—a month-long effort to rally one million people to take the Diabetes Risk Test by April 22 to find out if they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

“Diabetes Alert Day is a tremendously valuable initiative because it prompts people to take a simple Diabetes Risk Test and to make changes in the way they live so they can preserve their health,” said Kochkin.

“It’s also important that people with diabetes understand that they may be at an increased risk of hearing loss as a result of their disease. We urge anyone with diabetes to take the Across America Hearing Check Challenge, a quick and confidential online hearing test to determine if they need a comprehensive hearing check by a hearing professional.”

[The American Diabetes Association Alert Day℠ is a one-day “wake-up” call to inform the American public about the seriousness of diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) encourages people to join the movement to Stop Diabetes by taking the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if they, or their loved ones, are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

To become part of the movement to Stop Diabetes and get a free Diabetes Risk Test (English or Spanish), individuals can visit stopdiabetes.com, call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or text JOIN to 69866 (Standard data and message rates apply). Although Diabetes Alert Day is a one-day event, the Diabetes Risk Test is available year round.]

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