Most people are familiar with the common consequences of diabetes, such as heart damage and poor leg circulation. However, many don't know that the disease also increases your risk of experiencing hearing loss. In fact, people with diabetes are twice as likely to experiencing hearing loss as people who don't have the disease. Although doctors aren't sure exactly what the connection is between the two disorders, here are two possible causes.
Damage to Blood Vessels and Nerves in the Ears
One of the hallmarks of diabetes is high blood sugar. Although glucose is necessary for many bodily functions, excessive amounts of it in the blood is damaging to the blood vessels and nerves. Since blood pervades just about every part of your insides via this complex network of vessels, the damage from high glucose levels is often systemic, and that includes the ears.
The blood vessels and nerves in the ears may be weakened by chronic high blood sugar, making it more difficult for the organ to function properly. This, in turn, can lead to hearing problems, such as tinnitus or the gradual loss of hearing ability.
The best way to prevent this from happening is to keep your blood sugar levels in check as well as have your ears examined on a regular basis. If you do experience hearing loss, talk to the doctor or ENT specialist about strategies you can employ that may help you compensate.
Increase Risk of Ear Infections
Another way diabetes can lead to hearing loss is by causing you to develop ear infections more frequently. Diabetes has a negative impact on your immune system, causing it to function inefficiently. As a result, your body has a harder time fighting off bacteria and viruses, which is why you may fall ill more often than you used to before you developed the disease. Because of this, you may develop ear infections more easily and the infection may stick around for much longer than normal.
In addition to directly damaging internal ear structures, chronic ear infections can cause scar tissue to form in the middle ear, which means you may end up with a physical barrier that prevents sound from entering or the middle ear from moving correctly to interpret the signals for the brain. However, depending on how bad the scar tissue is, it may be possible to remove some of it through surgery.
If you notice you're getting a lot of ear infections, you should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible for treatment. The sooner the infection is dealt with, the lower your chances of losing your hearing as a result.
To learn more about this issue or suggestions for treatment options, contact an ear, nose, and throat specialist, such as at Surgery Center of Kenai.