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Vail Daily column: The hearing loss-diabetes connection

Daria Stakiw

Diabetes and hearing loss are two of America’s most widespread health concerns. Diabetes affects more than 382 million people globally and is also a major cause of heart disease and stroke.

Diabetics are accustomed to having routine checks on their eyes and feet — and now new research confirms that it is a good to have their hearing checked regularly as well.

Hearing health professionals across the United States are hoping to raise more awareness of the diabetes and hearing loss connection on World Diabetes Day.



DIABETICS FACE INCREASED ODDS OF HEARING LOSS



The National Institute of Health and the Annals of Internal Medicine found in 2008 that individuals with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss when compared to those who do not have the disease.

Even those who have elevated blood glucose levels but who have not been diagnosed with diabetes are 30 percent more likely to have hearing loss than those with normal blood glucose levels, according to the American Diabetes Association.

These are truly alarming numbers, and if you or anyone you know suffers from this disease, then you should take all the medically sound precautions available, as well as have your hearing tested by a medical professional regularly.



WAYS DIABETES AFFECTS HEARING

Health professionals believe diabetes affects your hearing in a variety of ways:

• High blood glucose levels produced by diabetes cause chemical changes which damage the blood vessels and nerves in a person’s inner ear, thereby affecting the ear’s ability to transmit sound. This may also affect balance.

• The connection between diabetes and hearing loss is stronger among younger patients. People younger than the age of 60 who have diabetes have a 2.6 times higher likelihood of hearing loss.

• Diabetic women are more prone to developing hearing loss than their male counterparts.

If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about a diet and exercise program. Losing weight and regulating your blood sugar is beneficial for the blood vessels and nerves in your inner ear, as well as your overall health. Studies show that losing just 7 percent of your body weight can significantly reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the Clinical Diabetes Center in NYC.

If you or a loved one has diabetes and have not had a hearing test, consider making an appointment with an audiologist today. Educate yourself on the various signs and symptoms of hearing loss so you are more aware if and when hearing loss may occur.

SIGNS OF HEARING LOSS

The signs of hearing loss include:

• Frequently asking for others to repeat themselves.

• Feeling as though others are mumbling.

• Turning up the volume on the TV or radio.

• Problems hearing in busy places or with multiple people.

SEEK TREATMENT NOW

Hearing loss due to diabetes is typically a high frequency nerve hearing loss, which can be treated successfully with hearing aids. The earlier a hearing loss is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated. Studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can have a negative impact on quality of life, and conversely, treating hearing loss has a very positive impact on quality of life. The main point being for diabetics, the sooner the hearing loss is treated the better.

Dr. Daria Stakiw is a board-certified doctor of audiology. She is also the owner and lead audiologist at Rocky Mountain Audiology clinics in Glenwood Springs and Edwards. Dr. Stakiw’s goal is to educate the community about hearing health. She is also the newborn infant hearing screen coordinator for the Western Slope and the audiology regional coordinator for the state of Colorado. She has lived in Colorado for 11 years with her husband and their 5 beautiful children. Contact her at 970-945-7575 or at dr.daria@rockymountainaudiology.com with any questions.


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