In conjunction with Diabetes Awareness Month, Dr. Lindsay Bondurant, director of the Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI) conducted a “Diabetes & Hearing Loss” presentation at The Eye Institute (TEI) as part of the Real World Diabetes seminar series.
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Hearing loss is almost twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those who do not have the disease, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Nearly 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and an estimated 34.5 million have some type of hearing loss. Those are large groups of people, and it appears there is an overlap between the two.

Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin effectively to control blood sugar (glucose) levels. Too much glucose in the blood for a long time can cause damage in many parts of the body. Diabetes can damage the heart, kidneys and blood vessels. It can damage small blood vessels in the ears as well.

Your ear is a delicate structure, and one that you depend on every day. So when diabetes, especially with poorly controlled blood sugar, takes its toll on the small blood vessels throughout your body, you ears are damaged, too. And, while other parts of your body can accommodate for damaged blood vessels by depending on alternative blood supplies, your ear lacks that option.

Symptoms of hearing loss can come on so gradually that you may not even notice them until someone close to you points them out. As a result, if you have diabetes you may need to have your hearing checked more often.

The most important step you can take in preventing any complications from diabetes including hearing loss is to control your blood sugars. Diet, exercise, and appropriate medications all play a role in keeping your blood glucose within normal range.

Make an appointment for a comprehensive hearing exam. Just like annual eye exams, make a habit of scheduling an appointment for a routine hearing exam every year. If you notice any changes in your hearing, you should see your primary care physician who can refer you to an audiologist.

To request an appointment with the Pennsylvania Ear Institute, click here or call 215.780.3180.