Many people are aware of the link between diabetes and vision loss but a recent survey has worryingly confirmed that the majority of those suffering from diabetes are unaware of their increased risk of hearing loss.
In a poll of 1,000 diabetics, Specsavers Hearing Centres have discovered that only 15% of diabetes sufferers understood that they are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss as non-diabetics.
Working with Specsavers Hearing Centres to raise awareness of this issue, Dr Dawn Harper is urging diabetes sufferers to get their hearing regularly checked. She explained: ‘Neuropathy or nerve damage is a common complication of diabetes. Researchers* believe prolonged high blood glucose levels may affect the supply of blood or oxygen to the tiny nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear. Over time, those nerves and blood vessels become damaged, affecting the ability to hear.
‘There are more than 3.2m** people in the UK who have been diagnosed with diabetes and hundreds of thousands more who are not yet diagnosed, so hearing loss could potentially be affecting a huge amount of people who do not even know they are at risk.’
Almost half of diabetics have never had their hearing checked
The Specsavers study of diabetics found that 86%3 had their sight checked once a year and almost all (94%3) understood the importance of regular sight checks to diagnose illnesses. In comparison however, just 13%3 of diabetics had their hearing checked once a year with virtually half (46%3) saying they never have their hearing tested.
The study showed that only 15%3 of diabetes sufferers understood that they were twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss as non-diabetics*, yet more than 40%*** confirmed that since being diagnosed with diabetes, they had struggled with their hearing.
Don’t suffer in silence
Dr Dawn added: ‘Hearing loss is a common problem and I see a lot of patients in my surgery who are struggling to do simple things such as follow a conversation or watch the TV. The onset of hearing loss is gradual so people put up with it and it can take years before they seek help. Hearing loss is incredibly isolating but it is so easily checked with a simple test and hearing aids today are so discreet.’
Colin Campbell, audiologist and director of professional services at Specsavers, commented: ‘The link between diabetes and hearing loss has only recently been discovered so it is vital we raise awareness of this issue. Because hearing loss can happen very gradually, many people do not even realise they are affected. All diabetics, especially those over the age of 55, should have their hearing checked once a year to help alleviate the symptoms and help patients feel connected again.’
* – Research by Tsukuba University Hospital Mito Medical Center, Ibaraki, Japan in July 2011
** – Diabetes UK, Feb 2014
*** – Study of 1,000 diabetics carried out by OnePoll in June 2015