an elderly man sitting alone on a benchNovember is National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the country bring attention to diabetes and raise funds to research the disease. Most people associate diabetes with blood sugar management or even loss of vision - but what you may not know is that 31 million people with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing hearing loss. Not only that, but their hearing loss may then factor into the eventual development of dementia.

Nearly every family in America includes at least one person living with diabetes. The audiology team at Hearing Unlimited wants you to know exactly how this vicious cycle works, and how hearing problems can become a gateway to dementia when left untreated:

What Causes Diabetes?

Diabetes actually occurs in two types, though Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are both defined by a resistance to insulin. Type 1 is the result of the body’s inability to produce insulin due to an unknown cause, though researchers suspect genetics and environmental factors. Type 2 is caused by the deterioration of the body’s insulin receptors and is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, particularly a sedentary one combined with a poor diet. It’s important to look out for the signs and symptoms of diabetes as you age, including:

  • Increased thirst, hunger, and frequent urination.
  • Fatigue.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Loss of hearing clarity.
  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections.

How Does Diabetes Cause Hearing Loss?

In patients with diabetes, glucose is not used properly in the brain. Depriving the brain of oxygen and glucose results in nerve cell death and decreases the brain’s ability to interpret incoming messages, leading to hearing impairments. Diabetes, particularly the blood sugar problems associated with it, also take their toll on small blood vessels throughout your body; in particular, our hearing organ is very susceptible to damage. Some parts of the body can accommodate for damaged blood vessels by depending on alternative blood supplies, but our ears lack that option, resulting in permanent hearing loss. 

Does Hearing Loss Cause Dementia?

While hearing loss may not be a root cause of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it may be a contributing factor. Research indicates that difficulty hearing, social isolation, and shared brain function pathways may lead to more cognitive resources being applied to hearing, reducing the brain’s capacity for working memory. If you’re unaware of your family history of dementia or hearing loss, it’s important to find out - these factors each may pose an increased risk for you or your loved ones!

Get a Hearing Test Today!

This correlation between untreated hearing loss and dementia is exactly why it’s essential for patients 60 and older - whether they are living with diabetes or not - to make regular visits to a hearing center. Preventative measures performed by hearing specialists can ensure that hearing problems are treated early and monitored regularly before they become a major obstacle to quality of life.

At Hearing Unlimited, we want all of our patients and their family members to be aware of the connections between dementia, hearing loss, and diabetes. If you or a family member are interested in scheduling a hearing test or using another of our care services, please reach out to us online or by phone today. Following your first contact, we can conduct a proper hearing loss test and begin to make recommendations for a personalized hearing loss treatment plan. We can also provide more information on hearing loss due to diabetes and its correlation with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

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