Diabetes and hearing loss

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Hearing loss and diabetes are two of Australia’s most common health concerns and there is a link between the two conditions. Research shows that people living with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer hearing loss as those without the condition.

If you have diabetes, there is an increased risk that you can develop hearing loss because high blood sugar levels can damage the tiny blood cells in the inner ear, which disrupts sound reception and makes it harder to hear.

Hearing loss associated with diabetes is often sudden and can affect anyone at any age living with diabetes, so it is imperative to have hearing checks annually. The earlier hearing loss is detected, the more effective treatment options, such as hearing aids, will be.

It is important that those living with diabetes understand the risks and long-term implications of hearing loss. The physical and psychological effects of hearing loss are well established and can be debilitating. Left undetected, hearing loss in adults can lead to significant health, social and economic problems, including falls, cognitive decline, social isolation and reduced capacity to learn and work.

So if you have diabetes, it is vital that you keep on top your medication and treatment plans and it is always important to follow a healthy lifestyle, by exercising and eating the correct foods. Many of us go to the gym to keep strong fit and healthy – so why neglect our ears?

Hearing health is usually something we do not prioritize and hearing loss happens gradually over time – it can creep up on us slowly and it is often an ‘invisible’ condition. Friends and family will notice first before you do!

Your doctor plays a critical role in recognising the mental health risks of hearing loss in patients living with diabetes and helping prevent the onset of withdrawal, isolation, and depression. Be sure to talk to your GP about any concerns you have about your hearing and keep up with your annual hearing checks for early diagnosis of any hearing issues and more effective ongoing management.

Signs of hearing loss:

  • friends and family say your television is too loud
  • you struggle to hear in noisy environments
  • you are often saying ‘pardon?’ in conversations
  • hissing or buzzing sounds in your ears
  • telephone conversations are difficult to understand
  • high pitched sounds, such as children and female voices are hard to understand.

Here are some tips for protecting your hearing:

  • always wear protective headphones when around loud noises
  • if you work in a noisy environment speak to your HR manager, as they should provide hearing protection
  • when listening to music use noise-canceling headphones, instead of turning up the volume to cover outside noise
  • if you are a musician, invest in a pair of musician earplugs, it will do wonders for your hearing health in the long term
  • Have a hearing check every 12-18 months, even if you do not have diabetes.

If you are experiencing any indicators of hearing loss talk to your GP about getting this checked or call 1300 412 512 to find a hearing specialist near you.

Join our community of over 45,000 people living with diabetes