When it comes to diabetes, many people are familiar with the symptoms of unusual thirst, frequent urination or lack of energy. But did you know that hearing loss can also occur as well? According to Dr. Li Qi, a senior audiologist at Vancouver General Hospital, people with diabetes, mostly women, have a 30 per cent higher chance of experiencing hearing loss than non-diabetics.
“It’s a very common problem that hasn’t been known to the public,” he says. “It was only recently discovered by research but it’s being talked about more now.”
People with diabetes experience hearing loss because their high blood sugar levels eventually damage the hair cells of the cochlea or inner ear.
Dr. Qi says that in addition to hearing loss, diabetes can effect auditory processing as well.
“What it means is that hearing is different from understanding – so patients with diabetes sometime need more cognitive resources to understand speech, especially with background noise,” he explains. “Like at Thanksgiving Dinner and there are 10 people around the table talking, it could be more challenging for people with diabetes.”
The audiologist says that there are ways for diabetics to prevent this from happening.
- Eat healthy
- Exercise regularly
- Get an annual hearing check-up
“Most of the time, diabetic patients don’t think they have hearing loss,” he says.