Studies Show Higher Rates of Hearing Loss for People with Diabetes

In Hearing Loss by Roselynn Gamboa Young, Au.D., CCC-A

Roselynn Gamboa Young, Au.D., CCC-A

When two different conditions tend to show up at the same time, medical professionals call them comorbidities. Although this term helps understand how different problems relate to one another, it can also give a false impression that one condition is causing the other. Although some health conditions are connected in that direct cause-and-effect relationship, most are connected indirectly. In other words, a third factor might be causing these other two conditions to occur at the same time. 

Studies have shown that those who have diabetes also have higher rates of hearing loss, as well. Although some people might think that diabetes is causing hearing loss, the bodily mechanism is more complicated. Instead of thinking in terms of a direct relationship, it is important to take a closer look in the body at the way that diabetes and hearing loss both occur. With a closer investigation, we can see that other underlying health conditions might be causing both at the same time. 

Diabetes and Hearing Loss Statistics

If you look at the raw numbers, the connection between hearing loss and diabetes is staggering. Those who have diabetes demonstrate 30 percent higher rates of hearing loss than those with normal blood sugar levels. Prediabetes can be included in that group, meaning that those who have prediabetes also have 30 percent higher rates of hearing loss than those with normal levels. If even a slight elevation of blood sugar is related to hearing loss, does that mean that blood sugar itself is causing the hearing loss?

Some explanations of the relationship almost say that is the case. The elevated proportion of sugars in the blood means that there is less oxygen and nutrition proportionally passed along to the ears. The tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear called stereocilia are very sensitive to differences in pressure caused by sound. This sensitivity makes it possible to detect frequencies and to translate that signal into an electrical impulse that the brain can understand. 

At the same time, that sensitivity also makes the stereocilia quite fragile, and they can become damaged or broken when they don’t get what they need to thrive, namely enough oxygen delivered by the blood. Although the proportion of sugar in the bloodstream might not allow enough oxygen to be passed along, it is also quite possible that a third factor is causing both diabetes and hearing loss at the same time. 

Cardiovascular disease is highly correlated with both of these conditions, and other lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise are similarly correlated. If we try to unpack the many ways that one factor in the body influences another, we soon discover the interconnected web of systems and organs that weave the body into a single functioning organism. No single part can be considered in isolation from the rest, meaning that anyone part of the body is somehow connected to the others. 

Preventing Diabetes and Hearing Loss

With these principles in mind, there are steps you can take to prevent both hearing loss and diabetes at the same time. Good nutrition is the first step. Health professionals exclaim the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables for good reason. Not only do they supply specific nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that the body needs, but they tend to have low-calorie density, meaning that they give you fiber and satisfaction while not overloading your body with unneeded sugars or energy. 

Limiting foods with high-calorie density is another way to think about a healthy diet. Processed foods, particularly those high in artificial sweeteners and saturated fats, are best consumed in small quantities. Exercise is the other main step toward preventing diabetes and hearing loss at the same time. 

When you are physically active, you enhance the body’s ability to send oxygenated blood through the body without obstruction. Incorporating more physical activity into your lifestyle can be as simple as taking a walk around the block or taking the stairs when you have the opportunity. 

With these simple steps in mind, you can take simple steps to promote a healthy lifestyle with preventative benefits for many conditions, including diabetes and hearing loss. For more on hearing health, contact us today to schedule a consultation!