Links Between Hearing Loss and Diabetes

Diabetes is on the rise in America, and the condition has become so common that even those who don’t suffer from it know something about it. Most individuals know, for example, that diabetics have to monitor their blood-glucose levels several times per day, using products like the FreeStyle diabetes test and supplies like Prodigy test strips. However, what studies have been focusing on recently is the worrying potential that diabetes has to affect hearing; specifically it appears to coincide with hearing loss.


While there are still tests being done and research being completed, the initial findings of a study done on veterans who suffer from diabetes suggests that the condition affects the part of the brain stem that allows people to hear. Central auditory processing, which is how a person hears and interprets what they hear, is also affected by the condition.


The more severe the type of diabetes the individual lived with, the worse the hearing loss problems seemed to be. While this doesn’t confirm that diabetes is the cause of the hearing loss, it is very strongly suggestive that it might be at least a strong factor.


The way diabetes works is that it interferes with the body’s ability to regulate its blood sugar. This typically takes the form of either not producing enough insulin (a chemical which helps aid in keeping blood sugar levels regular), or in being resistant to the effects of insulin. When someone has low blood sugar that can result in faintness, dizzy spells, confusion and a slew of other negative side effects. High blood sugar may not have immediately noticeable side effects, but it can result in nerve damage as well as damage to the eyes, kidneys, and the blood vessels.


At present the loss of hearing would seem to be linked to the long-term damage that diabetes can cause to the nervous system and how the signals are sent along it throughout the body. As a result, it’s more important than ever that diabetics manage their blood glucose levels and monitor themselves with the system of their choice—whether it is the FreeStyle diabetes test or the Accu-Chek Aviva—and make sure to have enough supplies to go with their system of choice, like Prodigy test strips.


While the exact method of how diabetes causes hearing loss isn’t sure, the fact that those with diabetes had double the rate of hearing loss as those who didn’t points very strongly to the role the disease plays. Once the individuals have lost hearing there isn’t much that can be done to fix it short of usual, corrective measures for hearing loss used in other cases. However, preventing diabetes from advancing is the chief way to prevent this hearing loss from happening in the first place. The study suggests that those who don’t depend on insulin will lose less hearing overall than diabetics who do, though these individuals will still lose more hearing than the general population.


Lastly, it’s important to note that it wasn’t just the ability to hear that the veterans studied were losing; it was the ability to understand what they were hearing. The area of the brain that was affected processes not just what sounds are heard, but also makes sense of what it is people are hearing. So even if someone is hearing a language he or she knows that’s being clearly spoken, it’s possible this damage could ruin that individual’s ability to understand the words and the meaning they should have.

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