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An Overlooked Complication

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LEXINGTON Hearing loss is about twice as common in people with diabetes, yet hearing tests are frequently overlooked in routine diabetes care. In fact, some experts believe that hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes.

High blood glucose levels, over time, can damage the blood vessels and nerves of the inner ear, diminishing the ability to hear. Many times, hearing loss is prevalent among people with diabetes and has a strong association with peripheral neuropathy.

Studies show that between the ages of 60 and 75, patients with well-controlled diabetes have better hearing than those whose diabetes was poorly controlled, shedding light on the importance of keeping diabetes under control to maintain healthy hearing.

Deanna Frazier, AuD, of Bluegrass Hearing Clinic states: “We strongly encourage people with diabetes to include regular hearing tests as part of their routine diabetes care. Unaddressed hearing loss can interfere with good diabetes management, and untreated hearing loss is often associated with other significant physical, mental, and emotional health conditions.”

5 Habits for Healthier Hearing for People with Diabetes

To help protect your hearing, be sure to follow these five healthy habits:

■ Get a thorough hearing exam every year and watch for signs of hearing loss.

You do it for your eyes. Now do it for your ears. Be sure to see a hearing healthcare professional every year for a thorough hearing examination. If you notice a change in your ability to hear under certain conditions – like at a restaurant or on a conference call – go sooner.

■ Use hearing devices, if recommended.

While hearing loss is not reversible, today’s hearing devices can dramatically enhance your ability to hear and engage with others, which can make a tremendous difference in your overall quality of life. Hearing technology has advanced radically in recent years. Many hearing devices adjust to a variety of noise environments and pick up sound from all directions. Best of all, many include wireless connectivity. Today’s hearing technology can stream sound directly from your smartphone, home entertainment system, and other electronics into the hearing devices at volumes just right for you.

■ Keep your blood sugar under control.

Just as your heart, eye, and nerve health are affected by your blood sugar levels, your hearing health may be as well. Work with your doctor to monitor your blood sugar and take appropriate medicines as prescribed.

■ Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Even for people without diabetes, a healthy lifestyle benefits hearing health. Not smoking, exercising, and maintaining a healthy diet all support your ability to hear. In fact, studies show that smoking and obesity may increase the risk of hearing loss, while regular physical activity seems to help protect against it.

■ Use ear protection.

Everyone is at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. But using ear protection is one of the best – and simplest – things you can do to preserve your hearing. Carry disposable earplugs with you, especially when you know you’ll be somewhere noisy. Use appropriate ear protection in loud work environments. Keep the volume on smartphones and other electronics low. Most of all, limit your time in noisy environments.

Lisa Meeker is the marketing director of Bluegrass Hearing Clinic. She can be reached at 1.800.470.4757.