Diabetes, Hearing Loss and Balance


01.25.2022

There is a scientifically provable relationship between our auditory and vestibular/balance sense and complications arising from diabetes. In fact, persons with diabetes often present signs of hearing difficulties earlier than those without diabetes. Therefore, it becomes imperative for those diagnosed with diabetes to explore ways to manage outcomes.
 
A growing number of Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year, with 34 million currently living with diabetes and 88 million living with pre-diabetes. By the year 2025, one in three American adults will be impacted by the disease. Diabetes is our nation’s seventh leading cause of death. 
 
There are 34.5 million Americans living with disabling hearing loss and 26 million people who have no audiometric hearing loss but present significant difficulties with speech understanding and understanding speech in the presence of background noises.
 
Hearing loss is twice as common for people with diabetes (PWD) compared to those without diabetes. Amazingly, those whose blood sugar glucose is higher than normal but not enough for a diabetes diagnosis have a 30% higher rate of hearing loss compared to those with normal blood sugar. 
 
The nickname for hearing and speech understanding loss is “the Invisible Handicap.” It occurs very slowly and gradually over many years. It is not easily recognized in a quiet office with a one-on-one conversation between the patient and their doctor.
 
Both hearing loss and vestibular damage have been termed “The Canary in the Coal Mine” because our auditory and balance blood vessels and tissue will start to show damage before larger and less delicate systems that have more backup circulation. What occurs in the ear happens before it does in other parts of the body.
 
People with a “mild” hearing loss (25 dB) are three times more likely to have a history of falls. Every additional 10 dB of hearing loss increases the chances of falling by an additional 1.4 times. The physical damage caused by diabetes to our vestibular and central balance abilities are closely linked to damage from retinopathy and peripheral neuropathy.
 
Palomar Health’s Chief Audiologist David Illich, Au.D. and Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Janice Baker, will be hosting a live, virtual discussion on March 10 at 6 p.m. (Register Here) to discuss how diabetes damages and affects our peripheral vestibular and central nervous system and what your physician and DCES should know concerning the diabetic patient's management, patient education, specific testing, psycho-social effects, and rehabilitation.

​Caption: Dr. David Illich (audiologist) and Janice Baker (Dietitian) will be hosting a live, virtual discussion on the connection between diabetes and hearing loss and how you can mitigate both.


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