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Your hearing health is a top priority for your wellbeing, but did you know that it might be related to other serious health concerns? Getting a diagnosis of your hearing ability is an important step to help you enjoy life, but it can also serve as a warning sign of other medical issues. If you find out that you have hearing loss, your primary care physician and medical team will want to know about that diagnosis. When they learn that you have hearing loss, they will be alerted to a higher risk of other associated health issues. Although it might not be intuitive, did you know that those who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss than those who do not have diabetes? Even those who have elevated blood sugar levels that qualify as pre-diabetes are at a higher risk. They have 30 percent higher rates of hearing loss than those with normal blood glucose. Your doctors can use these statistics to prompt testing for diabetes if they find out you have hearing loss. Each November, we celebrate American Diabetes Month as an opportunity to rally support for the condition and to raise awareness of its consequences. What better time to schedule a hearing test? If the results show that you have hearing loss, you can use that information to explore the risk of diabetes and to get treatment as soon as possible.
Comorbidities with Hearing Loss
Looking at these population statistics gives us a good sense of relative likelihood of different conditions. Not only are those who have hearing loss more likely to have diabetes, but they also have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, gout, and a wide range of other conditions. These higher risk factors can be taken as warning signs, but each of them has a different relationship at the level of bodily functioning. A “comorbidity” is a statistical relationship based on probability in the population. When we look at those relationships, we can see risk factors, but we can’t see what drives them within the body. The comorbidity between hearing loss and diabetes can be explained in at least three potential ways. The first is that increased blood sugar levels mean a deleted supply of oxygen to the ears. The tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear, called stereocilia, are sensitive to changes in the oxygen concentration in the bloodstream. When they don’t get the oxygen they need, they can become damaged in ways that lead to permanent hearing loss. Another possibility has to do with the blood vessels themselves. Those who have diabetes have a greater chance of broken blood vessels. If the blood vessels of the inner ear are broken or damaged, they can also lead to a diminished supply of oxygenated blood to the stereocilia. A final possibility is located in the auditory nervous system. Those who have diabetes can have higher rates of nerve damage, and that effect on the nervous system might affect the brain’s ability to perceive sound.
A Hearing Test as a Warning Sign
If you get a hearing test, the results will point you toward the treatment you need for your hearing and potential improvements to your communication ability. Not only can you pursue assistance with your hearing needs, but that diagnosis also functions as a warning sign for the comorbidities listed above, including diabetes. A hearing test result is not a certain diagnosis of diabetes, of course, but your higher likelihood is signaled by the results of exam. As part of American Diabetes Month, you can take the opportunity to get a hearing test with your mind on the potential comorbidity with diabetes. If you find out you have hearing loss, the good news is that treatment is available, and the options for hearing aids are improving all the time. If you tell your doctor about this diagnosis, you can also pursue the right line of testing for diabetes. The sooner you get the treatment and assistance you need, the better equipped you will be to manage your blood glucose levels and general health. Why not make your appointment today?