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Did you know hearing loss and diabetes are two of America’s greatest health concerns? Seniors often experience both. According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 29.2% of seniors in the U.S. have diabetes.
Seventy-year-old Eve had lived with diabetes for about five years when she first began to notice that her hearing was changing. At first, she noticed that it often sounded like others around her were mumbling, and she had a hard time hearing conversations with her family when they went out to dinner. When her children visited, they noticed that Eve often asked them to repeat what they’d just said and would sometimes miss parts of their conversations. When she shared this information with her doctor, she found out that people with diabetes often experience hearing loss. In fact, studies show that hearing loss is TWICE as common in people with diabetes as in those without. And for people with prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30% higher.
Luckily there are steps you can take to manage diabetes and reduce the risk of hearing loss damage.
Signs of Hearing Loss
It’s important to know how to recognize the signs of hearing loss since it can happen slowly and be hard to notice. Often your friends and family will notice your hearing loss before you do. Here are some signs of hearing loss:
- You often ask people to repeat themselves
- You have trouble following conversations with more than two people
- It often feels like others are mumbling
- It’s difficult to hear in places with lots of background noise – such as busy restaurants and stores
- You have problems with your balance when you stand up – this can lead to a greater risk for falls
- It’s hard for you to hear the voices of women and small children (and other higher-pitched sounds)
- You often turn up the TV and radio too loud for others nearby
Is Diabetes-Related Hearing Loss Preventable?
Did you know that once your inner ear is damaged, your hearing loss can’t be restored? That’s why it’s so important to prevent damage before it happens! Make sure to manage your diabetes and get your hearing checked regularly. If you experience any of the hearing loss signs noted above, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. If you have diabetes, here are other ways you can protect your hearing:
- Maintain healthy blood sugar levels and eating habits (it’s important to eat a balanced blend of high-fiber carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats)
- Schedule hearing checks every year
- Maintain a healthy and active lifestyle (daily exercise is a great way to stay healthy!)
- Avoid exposure to loud noises. If needed, wear protective gear such as noise protection headphones or ear plugs.
- Manage your stress. Chronic stress can lead to gradual hearing loss, sudden hearing loss and even tinnitus.
- If you are taking any medications that may cause damage to your hearing, talk to your doctor about possible alternatives
The best thing you can do to protect your hearing is to be proactive about your hearing health! Schedule regular hearing appointments with an audiologist or hearing care provider along with your diabetes care appointments. If you do experience hearing loss, your hearing care provider will be able to provide help with hearing aids or other devices – such as our ClearCaptions Phone. These devices are valuable tools that can also help reduce your risk of other hearing loss-related issues such as depression, social isolation and a decline in mental health. Being proactive with your hearing health – and overall health – can ultimately lead to you living a healthier and more fulfilling life as you age!