diabetes and hearing loss

Diabetes is at epidemic levels in the US. Diabetics are twice as likely to develop hearing loss.

A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health found hearing loss was two times more common in adults with diabetes compared to listeners who did not have the disease. Today they are 26 million American’s living with diabetes and about 80 million with pre-diabetes. Our most current data predicts in year 2050, 1 in 3 American adults will have Type II diabetes. Let’s look at the most common group of diabetics, those with Type II diabetes. Type II diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. While anyone can develop Type II diabetes, it more likely to occur in people over the age of 45 and overweight.

How Does Diabetes Cause Hearing Loss

Over time high blood glucose levels damage the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear. This causes damage to the hair cells resulting in permanent or sensory hearing loss. When you were born, the inner ear contained approximately 20,000 hair cells. That’s 20,000 hair cells for the right and 20,000 for the left. These hair cells code the vibrations from the eardrum into electrical signals and transfer them to a portion of the brain, auditory cortex, where there are processed. The hair cells are irreplaceable. You get the 20,000 on each side when you are born, and they need to last you the rest of your life. We can’t transplant them and you can’t pour Rogaine on them to make new ones!

(this is the first of a two part blog on diabetes. Please check out part II titled: What to Do About Hearing After Being Diagnosed with Type II Diabetes

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