The link between hearing loss and diabetes

We are becoming more aware of diabetes and its effects.

Diabetes – It is a major contributor to heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and blindness.

However, hearing loss may be an under-recognised complication of a disease that is becoming increasingly common, not just here, but around the world.

Recent research has suggested that hearing loss, a frequent problem for ageing adults, is more prevalent in people with diabetes, Hunter New England Health nurse audiometrist Gai Downes said.

‘‘In fact, some studies have shown that hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes, compared to those who don’t have the disease,’’ Gai said.

‘‘And for those aged under 60, hearing loss was found to be three times more common for people with diabetes than for those who did not have it.’’

‘‘We would certainly encourage people with diabetes to have an annual diagnostic hearing assessment as a routine part of their diabetes cycle of care,’’ Gai said.

More comprehensive than screening assessment, diagnostic audiometry is able to indicate middle ear function and the type of hearing loss detected.

It is estimated that within 10 years of diagnosis, 73per cent of people with diabetes will have a hearing loss.

‘‘There are a lot of major factors that are known to affect hearing loss – such as age, ethnicity, noise exposure, disease, and heredity factors – and the link between diabetes and hearing loss has been debated over the decades,’’ Gai said.

‘‘But recent research has shown a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes.

‘‘There seems to be an earlier onset and accelerated loss of hearing thresholds in those with diabetes.’’

Diabetes is one of our fastest growing chronic disease. It is estimated that for every person diagnosed, another is undiagnosed.

Although more work needs to be done in the area, researchers suggest that diabetes may lead to hearing loss by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear.

Hearing loss also affects people’s quality of life. It can negatively affect people’s ability to participate in education about diabetes or other conditions and it has been linked to a lack of adherence with medical regimes.

‘‘Hearing loss is often gradual and many patients are unaware they have difficulties hearing,’’ Gai said.

‘‘Sometimes it is family members or friends who first notice the problem.’’

If you have any questions about hearing loss contact Hidden Hearing.

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