Think about it: how do diabetes and hearing loss relate? There’s no clear-cut answer, but researchers are trying to get to the heart of the matter. These two conditions are closely related. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes and hearing loss are two of the top health concerns in this country. The statistics are staggering: 30 million people suffer from diabetes, while 34.5 million people have some degree of hearing loss. Recent studies have shown that you are twice as likely to have hearing loss if you have diabetes than those who do not have this disease. Taking stock of 20,000 people the U.S., Asia, Brazil and Australia, researchers had a big undertaking ahead of them.

Correlation Between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Old age? Noisy work environment? Although they’re typical causes of hearing damage, these were both ruled out in the studies suggesting a link between diabetes and hearing loss. That being said, researchers still don’t know exactly why diabetes causes hearing loss or even vice versa. There are speculations that high blood glucose levels that are common with diabetes actually hurt the small blood vessels in the inner ear, just like they can harm your eyes, kidneys and feet. As such, more research needs to be conducted to further explore the correlation between the two conditions. Some say that better controlling one’s blood sugar levels may curb the risk of hearing impairment, but again the results are inconclusive right now. Researchers do realize the effects may come from the medications and diuretics that diabetics take to lower their blood pressure.

Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

You may have trouble distinguishing words against background noise or a loud crowd of people, feeling the need to ask others to repeat themselves and hearing just a muffling of sounds on a daily basis. These are big signs of hearing damage. Failure to get diagnosed and treated by an audiologist can cause you to withdraw from social situations and even present a real danger to your safety and that of others, such as while driving a car, for example. You won’t even think you have a problem until a spouse or close friend mentions their concerns. Be proactive and be wary of signs and symptoms of hearing loss, which can include difficulty following conversations involving multiple people, perceiving others’ conversations as mumbling, trouble with detecting the voices of small children or women, and the need to put the volume on the TV or radio up too loud for others around you.

Testing for Diabetes

It is critical for anyone who is diabetic to have their hearing tested, which helps immensely for researchers in finding out what the exact correlation is between the two. At your next checkup, ask to be referred to an audiologist for further testing. While diabetes is a culprit in many related health problems, from heart disease to vision loss, it’s far less likely doctors will test hearing as part of a full exam for diabetics.