Treating Hearing Loss and Diabetes Prevention

Last update on Nov, 10, 2020

The impact of diabetes

Diabetes is one of the country’s most devastating diseases, in large part because it can lead to cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, foot damage, skin conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, hearing loss and other life-altering health conditions. Diabetes and its complications are costly, too, consuming one of every seven dollars spent on health care, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). 

None of this is breaking news. But in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic changed everything, including the complexion of diabetes.

Most notably, individuals with diabetes face a higher likelihood of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19, compared to people with normal blood sugar, says the ADA. The findings of a Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology study are even more alarming: Compared to people without diabetes, the risk of dying from COVID-19 is nearly three times higher for those who have type 1 diabetes and twice as high for those with type 2 diabetes.

On a positive note, the ADA states that the risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is likely to be lower with effective diabetes management, including healthy eating, physical exercise, taking medications as directed and regularly checking blood glucose levels. 

But, of course, people can manage their diabetes only if they know that they have it. 

The connection between diabetes and hearing loss

Unfortunately, many individuals do not recognize the symptoms of diabetes and therefore don’t seek medical attention. The diagnosis of prediabetes is especially elusive — more than 84% of the affected 88 million adults aren’t aware that they have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, a significant number of people with diabetes and prediabetes do exhibit signs of hearing loss. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don't have the disease. Also, among adults who have prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30% higher than in those with normal blood glucose.

Researchers don’t fully understand the “why” behind the diabetes-hearing loss connection. However, it’s possible that the high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes can damage blood vessels in the inner ear, similar to the way eyes and kidneys are affected. Regardless of the mechanism involved, hearing health care professionals may play an important role in the early identification of individuals with diabetes or prediabetes. Specifically, patients who are diagnosed with hearing loss may want to undergo a diabetes/prediabetes screening, especially if they have a family history of diabetes and/or other risk factors. 

Action plan for health plans and employers

Diabetes robs people of their health, and now it puts them at an elevated risk for COVID-19 complications. It also represents a huge financial drain for consumers, health plans and employers. Without even factoring in the impacts of COVID-19, individuals with diagnosed diabetes incur an average of $16,752 in medical expenditures per year, according to the ADA; $9,601 of that is directly attributed to the treatment of diabetes. Indirect costs include increased absenteeism ($3.3 billion) and decreased productivity at work ($26.9 billion).

During November, which is American Diabetes Month, Amplifon Hearing Health Care encourages you to educate your members or employees about diabetes, particularly its risk factors, health impacts (including hearing loss) and the importance of early detection and diligent management of the disease. 

In addition, spread the word about the value of a professional hearing evaluation, including the potential to identify those who may be at risk for diabetes or prediabetes. Conversely, people with diabetes or prediabetes should get their hearing tested. If hearing loss is indicated, prompt treatment can reduce the risk of other health conditions, such as dementia, depression and injury-causing falls.

A senior couple saying goodbye to an Amplifon hearing professional after a meeting
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