Diabetes is a major health concern not only in Louisiana, but throughout the United States. An estimated 30 million American adults have been diagnosed with the disease and another 84 million have prediabetes, which significantly increases their risk of developing full-blown diabetes over the next five years.
It is estimated that one out of every ten people in Lake Charles has diabetes; if you are one of them, then you probably are familiar with the many health risks associated with the disease. You might be surprised to learn that hearing loss is among the dangers you’ll face.
Health Complications Associated with Diabetes
There are a number of serious health complications that patients with diabetes face. These include neuropathy, blindness, heart disease and kidney failure. Overall life expectancy drops by 5-6 years for people with diabetes due to the many health challenges they face. On top of those sobering statistics comes evidence of a strong link between diabetes and hearing loss.
What’s causing the link between diabetes and hearing loss?
The reason for this correlation is unclear, but scientists have theories. The most plausible one involves the elevated blood glucose levels that are a trademark of diabetes. These high glucose levels cause damage to the eyes and kidneys, so it stands to reason that they may be harmful to the blood vessels of the inner ear, causing irreversible damage to the hair cells of the cochlea that are responsible for converting sounds into electrical impulses and sending them to the brain for interpretation. Once these cells are damaged, hearing loss occurs.
Another theory holds that, because diabetes contributes to a thickening of the walls in the kidneys that can lead to organ failure—and the pathology of the inner ear is similar to that of the kidneys—perhaps the walls of the inner ear undergo the same detrimental effects.
How much greater is the risk of hearing loss with diabetes?
Regardless of the reason, the correlation is clear. People with diabetes have about double the risk of developing hearing loss than those without the disease. Individuals between the ages of 50 and 69 are most likely to have a hearing impairment—an estimated 70 percent of diabetics in this age group have been diagnosed with high-frequency hearing loss, and one-third have low- or mid-frequency hearing loss.
You aren’t off the hook if you have prediabetes, either; your odds of experiencing hearing loss are 30 percent higher if you’re a prediabetic.
Early intervention makes the difference.
Despite the widespread prevalence of diabetes in Lake Charles and across the country, it is believed that 25 percent of all individuals with the disease are undiagnosed. This means hearing loss has the potential to become a widespread, serious problem.
The sooner you receive treatment, the better your long-term odds of preventing or reducing the seriousness of hearing loss. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes or are likely to develop it due to known risk factors (being overweight, inactive or a history of the disease runs in your family), you should schedule regular hearing screenings.
If you’d like more information on the link between diabetes and hearing loss, or want to schedule a hearing screening, contact a Lake Charles audiologist today.