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Dear Diabetes: Diabetes and Hearing Loss?

An RN looks at diabetes and the risk of hearing loss

Dear Diabetes: Is there a connection between diabetes and hearing loss?

That’s not such a simple question to answer. There have been a lot of studies about hearing loss and diabetes, and yet no definitive conclusions. In 2008, the National Institutes of Health reported on a study that found people living with diabetes have twice the rate of hearing loss as those who do not live with diabetes. In addition, people living with pre-diabetes have a thirty percent higher rate of hearing loss. And in 2013, researchers combined the findings of several studies on hearing loss in adults living with and without diabetes, and found that people living with diabetes consistently have higher rates of hearing loss regardless of age.

There is not a lot of information about the differences in hearing loss between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. However, one study tracked people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and found their hearing loss progressed faster than that of their counterparts without diabetes.

Some signs of hearing loss include:

• A perception that people are mumbling, or voices are muffled

• Trouble understanding what people are saying, especially if there is background noise

• Needing to have the television or radio at a higher volume

• Ringing in the ears

• Frequently asking people to repeat what they’ve said

• Avoiding conversations because hearing is difficult

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have hearing loss, contact your health care team to find out about testing. It may include a general screening, in which you cover one ear at a time and repeat spoken words; or listening for the sounds of tuning forks, a test that may detect loss of sensation in nerves related to hearing. Or a hearing specialist known as an audiologist may administer hearing tests using an audiometer. In this case, you would wear headphones and listen for tones in one ear at a time.

The good news is there are ways to lower the risk for hearing loss: Avoid excessive noise by keeping volumes down, limit exposure to loud noise and wear ear/hearing protection. In addition, getting routine hearing screenings and removing ear wax properly may lower the risk of hearing loss.

In conclusion, experts still don’t know for sure if there is a connection between blood glucose levels and hearing loss.

Jane K. Dickinson, RN, PhD, CDE* (@JaneKDickinson) is a nurse and diabetes educator in Northwestern Colorado. She is the program coordinator and on the faculty for the online Master of Science in Diabetes Education and Management Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dickinson is also the author of People With Diabetes Can Eat Anything: It’s All About Balance. Dickinson is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.

© 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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