Diabetes and Hearing

Diabetes and Hearing

Link between diabetes and hearing loss

Hearing loss and diabetes are two of Australia’s most common health concerns and research shows that people living with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer hearing loss as those without the condition.

Diabetes is a condition that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin, a hormone which helps balance the levels of sugar in your blood.

Western Sydney is facing a growing health concern due to the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes which is at 13 per cent in adults – higher than the state average.

Western Sydney Diabetes is a collaborative initiative led by Western Sydney Local Health District and Western Sydney Primary Health Network (WentWest), Diabetes Australia and Department of Planning and Environment to address the Western Sydney diabetes hotspot.

Over time, diabetes can damage blood vessels in the heart, kidneys, nerves and can cause hearing loss and permanent vision loss in the eyes.

Donalee Rose, Community Hearing Advisor from Hearing Australia in Westpoint Blacktown, said it is important people living with diabetes understand the risks and long-term implications of hearing loss.

Donalee Rose, Community Hearing Advisor from Hearing Australia, does a screening test on Bill Needham of Prospect.

Ms Rose, who provides hearing care, education and information for the Blacktown Local Government Area, said most people are not aware of the significant impact of diabetes on hearing.

“The structure of the inner ear is highly vascularised,” she said. “Therefore, hearing loss can result from changes to the small blood vessels of the inner ear. There is evidence that diabetes may lead to the sensorineural hearing loss by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear.”

She said the physical and psychological effects of hearing loss can be debilitating. 

“It is also critical that hearing loss is not left unmanaged due to the risk of comorbidities,” Ms Rose said.

Interventions are aimed at reducing the effects of the damage and restoring function.  It is very important the brain continues to be stimulated by hearing and understanding words. 

Hearing Australia has provided hearing care for 76 years helping Australians re-discover the joy of sound and is the largest provider of government-funded hearing services in Australia. 

As a Community Hearing Advisor, Ms Rose liaises with GPs, pharmacists, community groups and sporting organisations to raise awareness of diabetes in the community via free hearing screenings to identify hearing loss and facilitate clinical appointments with audiologists.

Bill Needham of Prospect has had type 2 diabetes for 11 years and met Ms Rose at Myrtle Street Pharmacy, Blacktown for a Pharmacy Hearing Screening and discovered there could be a link between his diabetes and his hearing loss.

“It’s a conversation worth having with your GP,” Ms Rose said.

“People might come in to get their diabetes medication and the GP will take that extra step and send them to me as the patient may not realise their diabetes could be linked to their hearing loss.”

Ms Rose facilitated an appointment with an audiologist who fitted Bill, 76, with hearing devices.

He said it has been a positive, life changing experience and encourages everyone to have an annual hearing screening, especially people who have diabetes which allows for early diagnosis and effective hearing care management.

Residents can contact Donalee Rose at Hearing Australia on (02) 9830 8300 for further hearing care.

Diabetes can be prevented by:

  • Early detection and follow-up;
  • Managing blood sugar levels;
  • Quitting smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels; and
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.

Western Sydney Local Health District provides several initiatives including community education programs, screening services and support groups for people with diabetes.     

Western Sydney Diabetes staff specialists have put together a video discussing the importance of hearing checks: https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/770971497/af04736acb