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Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Understanding the Connection

Jennifer Rhodes-Kropf, M.D.'s picture
Diabetes and Hearing Loss
Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss often occurs with age. However, research has revealed that hearing loss can actually be accelerated in patients with diabetes, especially if blood-glucose levels are not being controlled with medication and diet.

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone required to convert sugar, starches and other foods into energy needed for daily life. People with diabetes have too much glucose, a form of sugar, in their blood. More than half of the 16 million Americans living with diabetes are over the age of 60.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has discovered that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don't have the disease. The organization also reports that of the 79 million adults thought to have pre-diabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher than in those with normal blood sugar.

How does diabetes contribute to hearing loss exactly? Hearing depends on small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear. Researchers believe that, over time, high blood glucose levels can damage these vessels and nerves, diminishing the ability to hear.

Since seniors living with diabetes also potentially face common hearing loss issues related to aging, they should make it a priority to closely follow their self-management programs. This will ensure that they protect their hearing and stay healthy overall. While every patient is different, I generally urge my patients to monitor blood glucose levels regularly, follow a well-balanced meal plan, exercise, take medications as prescribed and keep regular appointments with their health care providers. 

If you have concerns about hearing loss or diabetes, feel free to schedule an appointment at my new practice at the Center Communities of Brookline. Call 617-363-8041 to learn more.

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Geriatrician

Dr. Rhodes-Kropf, is a staff geriatrician at HRC. She received her medical degree from the University of North Carolina and completed her internal medicine internship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and her residency in internal medicine at Cornell University/New York Presbyterian Medical Center. Dr. Rhodes-Kropf, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, completed a geriatrics fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital.

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