By W.L. “Hunter” Huntley, III, HAS., BC-HIS –
The Month of October is annually designated as National Diabetes and National Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Diabetes affects more then 26 million adults and children and is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, and amputations of the lower limbs in adults. According to the ADA (American Diabetes Association), over seven million of these individuals are unaware they have the disease. An additional seventy-nine million are pre-diabetic, putting them at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes; which is the most common form of diabetes, afflicting more than 90 percent of Americans with the disease. Those affected by type 2 diabetes either are unable to produce the proper amount of insulin, or the body is not able to use it properly.
Diabetes is known as the “silent killer” because many individuals afflicted with the disease are unaware they have it. Diabetes can cause a plethora of problems, including hearing loss.
In July of 2008 The National Institute of Health determined that people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop hearing loss. They also reported that individuals with high glucose levels but have not developed diabetes yet, are 35 percent more likely to have hearing loss than those with normal blood glucose levels.
Diabetes affects your hearing in several ways:
1. Diabetes causes the walls of the cochlea to thicken and lose hair cells (the cells of the inner ear are essential for hearing and balance).
2. High blood glucose levels produced by diabetes cause chemical changes in nerves and blood vessels in the inner ear, affecting the body’s ability to transmit sound properly and effectively.
3. Diabetes may also create sensitivity to some of the materials used in hearing instruments, causing fungus, yeast, and infections in the hearing device user’s ear canal.
According to a new study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, women seem to be more likely to develop hearing loss than men. Women who didn’t keep their glucose levels under control were found to have the worst levels of hearing impairment.
Being overweight also puts individuals at higher risk. Losing weight and regulating blood sugar is beneficial for the nerves and blood vessels of your inner ear as well as your overall health. Studies have found that losing as little as seven percent of your overall body weight may significantly reduce a person’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Untreated hearing loss may also have significant ramifications on an individual’s overall health. Recent studies by Johns Hopkins Medical University in conjunction with National Institute on Aging, have determined that individuals with mild hearing loss, are twice as likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Those with severe hearing impairment were five times as likely to contract dementia and Alzheimer’s. This is due to lack of proper stimulation to the auditory portion of the brain responsible for hearing and interpreting speech. Without proper stimulation, the brain atrophies and loses function. We hear with our brains, not our ears!
If you or someone you know has not had a hearing evaluation in the last year, or suspects a problem might exist, call Leonardi Hearing Center at (239)997-8288 for a FREE consultation and evaluation.