Diabetes is a leading health concern in Charleston and throughout the country. With an upward trend in obesity levels – a major risk factor for diabetes – the number of patients continues to rise. 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 84 million have pre-diabetes, which significantly increases their risk of developing the disease within the next five years.
Comorbidities Associated with Diabetes
About one out of ten people suffers from diabetes in Charleston. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you are at high risk for a number of serious and potentially debilitating health complications including neuropathy, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and blindness. Your doctor has probably already made you aware of these health risks – but you might not realize you also have a higher chance of developing hearing loss.
Studies show that diabetics are twice as likely to experience hearing impairment. Those most at risk are aged 50-69; about 70 percent of patients in this age group suffer from high-frequency hearing loss and one-third are diagnosed with low- or mid-frequency hearing loss. Even people with pre-diabetes have a 30 percent elevated risk of hearing loss.
There are a couple of reasons why diabetes may contribute to hearing loss. High blood glucose levels not only cause potential damage to the eyes and kidneys; they can also affect the blood vessels of the inner ear responsible for hearing, causing irreversible damage to the nerves in the cochlea. Diabetes also causes thickening in the walls of the kidneys, a condition that can lead to organ failure over time. The inner ear shares a similar pathology as the kidneys and can therefore experience the same negative effects.
Regular Hearing Checkups are Key
One in four people with diabetes in Charleston don’t even realize they are ill. Without medical treatment, these individuals have a higher likelihood of experiencing diabetic complications such as hearing loss. Because early detection is instrumental in preventing long-term problems, those who have either been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes or have a higher risk (people with a family history, those who are obese or lead a sedentary lifestyle) are urged to have regular hearing checkups.
For more information on the link between diabetes and hearing loss or to schedule a hearing screening, contact your Charleston audiologist today.