Could Hearing Loss Be Caused by Diabetes?
Hearing loss could be masking another problem. There’s little you can do about it on your own, so you should see a doctor. You need to be checked for conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, both associated with hearing problems.
If you get a clean bill of health, you may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) for specialized testing and a rundown of your treatment options. Your doctor may recommend a hearing specialist (audiologist), who will conduct a test to determine the type and degree of loss. An audiologist can fit you with a hearing aid. Although such devices are undeniably pricey, most people who opt for them are delighted as the world of sound is restored. In certain cases, surgery may be recommended.
Some causes of hearing loss can be corrected: Removing excess earwax can make a difference. The right medications restore hearing affected by a virus, bacteria, or allergies.
Although you may not be able to regain the hearing capacity you’ve lost, you can take steps to keep what you have and make the most of it. The following may be helpful:
- Avoid loud noises. If you go to a noisy concert or sporting event, use earplugs. They won’t keep you from hearing what’s going on, but they’ll keep the dangerous decibel levels from damaging your ears. The same goes for any time you’re around loud noises, such as construction and even traffic.
- Exercise. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin looked at 1,600 people between ages 52 and 97. They found that those who exercised were 32% less likely to have impaired hearing than those who didn’t work out. Those with cardiovascular disease (sometimes fueled by a sedentary lifestyle) were 54% more likely to have hearing loss.
- Give up cigarettes. A study in Japan of 1,554 men who worked at the same company found that those who smoked were more than twice as likely to have hearing loss as those who didn’t.
- Turn off background noise. If you have trouble understanding what people are saying, get rid of distracting background sounds by turning off the TV, radio, or CD player, the dishwasher, or moving away from the commotion.
- Teach your family and friends how to speak. A few simple suggestions can help those who talk with you most communicate more clearly. They don’t need to shout, but tell them to speak a little louder and enunciate well. Make sure they face you squarely and aren’t eating or chewing gum while they talk.
Many people with hearing loss are greatly helped by a hearing aid. These devices basically amplify sounds. A tiny microphone picks up sound waves and converts them to electrical signals, which are then sent through an amplifier to your ear. Although a hearing aid can’t restore normal hearing, it can improve your hearing and your quality of life. One study of 2,300 hearing-impaired adults over age 50 found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia than those with hearing aids. The untreated group also felt more isolated and was less likely to take part in organized social activities. If your doctor or otolaryngologist recommends a hearing aid, heed the advice.
If you have lost most or all of your hearing, a cochlear implant may restore a sense of sound that can help you understand speech without lip reading or sign language. This complex electronic device intercepts useful sounds and sends electrical impulses to the brain via electrodes placed in the cochlea. It doesn’t repair your body’s natural hearing system, but compensates for it in a way that allows you to communicate in person and over the phone.
In about 2% to 3% of cases, hearing loss may be caused by otosclerosis. This hereditary disorder occurs when abnormal bone forms around the tiny bones in the ear known as ossicles. During stapedectomy surgery, one of the bones (the stapes) is replaced by a prosthesis made of plastic and wire. Such a procedure can be effective at restoring hearing.
For most cases of natural hearing loss due to age or exposure to loud noises, no medications can help. When hearing loss is caused by another problem, you may find relief in a bottle. Cerumenolytics (Debrox, Cerumenex) can help dissolve excess earwax and clear up the problem. Antibiotics combat ear infections, and an anticoagulant can help if the loss of hearing is caused by a blood clot in an artery feeding the ear. For hearing loss related to various allergies, antihistamines and decongestants may provide relief.