January 16, 2013

Hearing Loss Now Linked to Diabetes

Since I have type 2 diabetes, this is not news to me, but from discussions I have had with a few type 2 people with diabetes, I know many are not aware of the possibility of hearing loss. A key to understanding this is this statement from the study authors, “high blood glucose levels can damage vessels in the stria vascularis and nerves diminishing the ability to hear.” Stria vascularis is the upper portion of the spiral ligament that contains numerous capillary loops and small blood vessels, and is termed the stria vascularis. It produces endolymph for the scala media, one of the three fluid-filled compartments of the cochlea.

Like vision loss, it is the small blood vessels that are damaged by extended high blood glucose levels; therefore, hearing loss develops. Yet even this is controversial as most studies are inconsistent in results, that is, they have faults in research protocols so that the results are always inconsistent. It is still believed that over time, high blood glucose levels can cause damage and diminish the ability to hear. A study by the University of Japan found that people with diabetes have more than two times higher prevalence of hearing impairment than those without diabetes.

One of the strongest critics of the study states that the study is an observational association and additional studies are needed to clarify the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss. When researchers compare diabetics with non-diabetics, these observational studies cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship, only a correlation between diabetes and hearing problems.

The connection between hearing loss and diabetes was stronger among people who were 60 years of age or younger rather than among older adults. The likelihood of having hearing impairment in this group was 2.6 times higher. Comments agreed and said this is consistent with the idea of poor blood glucose management, which damages blood vessels and nerves throughout the body and not simply old age.

It is important to be proactive in your care. If you notice any hearing loss, report this to your doctor. According the American Diabetes Association almost 26 million people have diabetes. More than 34 million Americans have some type of hearing loss and this number is rising as the baby boom generation ages.

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