Healthy Initiatives to Prevent Hearing loss & Diabetes

By: Renea Dutton, PT

The Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion develops initiatives and goals every decade to promote consumer wellness.  The 2020 initiative includes several targets, including being preventative services to help seek and identify illness at earlier stages or further prevent the illness from occurring.

Unfortunately, as illnesses progress so does the risk of co-morbid conditions.  With increased research, our understanding of the clear link between the primary disorder and potential secondary disorders can lead to a better diagnosis and treatment of subsequent conditions.

With advancing research, there is a growing awareness of a link between Type 2 diabetes and hearing loss, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).  The article “Hearing Loss & Diabetes” by Marilyn Enock (www.asha.org) indicates that 2% of adults aged 45 to 54 have a hearing loss disability, which steadily increases with age to nearly 25% of adults aged 65 to 74, and to half of those aged 75 years or older.  Individuals with diabetes were found to be twice as likely to develop hearing loss, which is thought to be related to a chemical change caused by elevated blood sugar levels.  The chemical change affects the nervous system’s ability to send typical sound signals to the brain, resulting in affected hearing.

Presbycusis is the type of hearing loss most commonly diagnosed in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.  This type of hearing loss is typically slow to progress and predominantly affects the individual’s ability to hear higher pitched sounds including a phone ringing or the voice of a female conversation partner.  Consequently, hearing loss can be a risk factor for social isolation and loneliness leading to a feeling of “missing out” on social gatherings or conversations.   

Fortunately, both risk of diabetes and hearing loss can be screened or tested relatively quickly.  Individuals with diabetes should consider consulting their physician to determine if a routine hearing screening or testing would be an appropriate healthy initiative in order to prevent hearing loss.