Hearing loss is a condition often linked to diabetes, according to the National Institute of Health. Although the reason for the link is unknown, some researchers feel that high blood sugar levels may damage the small blood vessels of the inner ear. Additional research is being conducted into what the link may be between diabetes and hearing loss.
It is known that hearing loss occurs almost twice as frequently in people with diabetes. A recent study indicates that hearing loss generally worsens with uncontrolled diabetes. Another study shows that 54% of people with diabetes have at least a mild hearing loss in the higher frequency sounds. This compares to 32% of a similar population grouping without a history of diabetes.1
Diabetic neuropathy is another problem that often occurs in persons with diabetes. The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy can severely decrease patient’s quality of life. The neuropathy, caused by damage to nerves, can cause a numbness in fingers so that there is difficulty feeling pain or objects. The numbness makes it difficult to manipulate small objects.
The conditions of hearing loss along with diabetic neuropathy can cause a significant reduction in the patient’s quality of life. Awareness of the problems caused by neuropathy, patient education and management of the neuropathy should begin at the early diagnosis of diabetes.2 Also early after the diagnosis of diabetes, I would suggest that a baseline of hearing levels should be obtained and tracked on a yearly basis.
If a hearing loss is identified, appropriate treatment for the hearing loss should be initiated. Hearing aids are used to successfully treat most sensorineural hearing losses.3
If hearing aids are indicated, there are several considerations in choosing which hearing aid is better for the individuals needs. The Better Hearing Institute 4 has suggestions of what should be considered.
There are specific hearing aid options that can make the use of hearing aids easier, specifically for persons with diabetic neuropathy. The specific needs of each patient should be considered relative to the size, shape, and model of hearing aid that can best meet their hearing needs as well as their ability to manipulate the hearing aids and the even smaller hearing aid batteries.
One hearing aid option to consider is the use of hearing aids with rechargeable batteries. The rechargeable units are easier to use for many people with neuropathy or other issues that limit dexterity and manipulation of small objects such as hearing aid batteries.
The goal of adequately treating the hearing loss and the neuropathy is to maximize the quality of life for the individual.
1. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/seniors/hearing-loss/ Accessed 11/05/2012
2. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1170337-overview Accessed 11/05/2012.
3. http://www.umm.edu/otolaryngology/hearing_loss.htm Accessed 11/05/2012
Tags: diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, finger numbness, hearing loss, hearing aids, rechargeable hearing aids, rechargeable hearing aid batteries, Hansaton