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Do You Have Diabetes? Put Your Hearing Health to the Test

We know that type 2 diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia at epidemic proportions. More than 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, while 280 new cases are diagnosed every day. For us at ihear, many of the people we see in our clinics each day have diabetes. That’s why we’re driven to learn more about what links exist between diabetes and hearing loss, so we can help this significant group of patients lead vibrant lives through better hearing health.

Does it surprise you to know that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes, compared to those without? A US study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) tested more than 4,700 adults on their ability to hear a range of frequencies in both ears. Results showed a strong correlation between diabetes and hearing loss across all sound frequencies, but especially in the high frequency range.

Why people with diabetes have increased risk of hearing loss?

It’s thought to be pretty similar to how other diabetic complications can develop. Elevated blood sugar levels over a long time, as diabetics might experience, can damage blood vessels and reduce blood flow to various areas of the body. This can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear and result in hearing loss. While we don’t know this for sure yet, future research will help to further unravel the science behind this.

We know that for people with diabetes there’s maelstrom of health checks and appointments to keep on top of! Keeping healthy plays a huge role in avoiding complications later in life. So, you might be wondering, ‘how does an audiologist fit into the picture?’ or even lamenting, ‘I don’t have time for yet another appointment!’ Stay with us!

Looking after your hearing is vital to your overall health and wellbeing

Hearing loss can impact on so many elements of your everyday life, including earning power, closeness of your relationships, and emotional stability, as well as overall physical health. It’s an important piece of the good health puzzle. 

Research published by medical journal Diabetes Care shows that as many as two-thirds of diabetics had high-frequency hearing impairment.

So, how do you know if this could be you?

The funny thing is that most of the time people with hearing loss are the last ones to know about it! Friends and family might be good-naturedly ‘on your back’ about your hearing – joking around about how loud you have the TV or radio. Or you may have even noticed some of the signs of hearing loss yourself. Common signs include asking others to repeat themselves, having trouble hearing women’s and children’s voices, or struggling understanding conversations in noisy places.

Often patients tell us that they assumed their hearing was fine, as nothing had been picked up on before by their health care team. Even if you see a regular GP, we know that only about 13% of doctors routinely screen for hearing loss. And because most people with hearing impairments hear just fine in quiet environments like a doctor’s office, it can be easy for a problem to slip under the radar.

Why it’s so important to add an annual hearing check to your calendar

Once you’ve popped in for a hearing test at your closest ihear clinic, which is quick and painless, an audiologist can then determine your hearing health. If there is loss, he or she can then discuss with you if a hearing aid could help. The difference hearing aids could make is life changing. And, hearing aid technology has come a long way – those old whistling bulky appliances are a thing of the past! Today’s hearing aids are very comfortable and discreet, and some can even sit right in your ear canal making them completely invisible.  

Some of the latest designs also enhance everyday activities for a fully immersive experience – stream phone calls, music, or your favourite TV shows straight to your ears!

Test Your Hearing in 5 Minutes With an Online Hearing Test

While we’d love to see you in our ihear clinics, you can also try our online hearing age test right from home. This can give an indication on whether there might be anything to address. If your test shows there is a need to see us in clinic, it’s good to see one of our audiologists sooner rather than later. The more quickly we can address hearing loss, the more easily your ears will acclimatise to hearing your favourite sounds again.

A quick word on prevention advice. Because we all know it’s better than a cure! To avoid hearing loss in diabetes, as per other complications, doctors recommend to closely moderate your blood glucose levels and aim to keep your HbA1c within the recommended range. A healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a nutritious diet can help keep HbA1c levels lower and improve management of daily blood glucose levels. Happy hearing health!