Type 2 diabetes: The sign in your ear that could signal the chronic condition
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. This means blood sugar stays in the blood and isn’t used as fuel for energy. Consistently high amounts of blood sugar in the blood can cause a number of life-threatening complications, such as heart disease and stroke.
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It is therefore imperative to recognise and act on the warning signs associated with type 2 diabetes so that you get diagnosed and make the necessary lifestyle changes.
The trouble is, the symptoms can be slight and do not necessarily make you feel unwell so you may have type 2 diabetes without realising.
One potential symptom of type 2 diabetes you may not know about is hearing loss, a term used to describe partial or total inability to hear.
While hearing loss is a very common condition that is usually a result of ageing or constant exposure to loud noise, evidence has shown it to be twice as common in adults diabetes compared to those without the disease.
One study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found a strong association between impaired hearing and diabetes.
After analysing the results of hearing tests given to a nationally representative sample of working-age adults in American, the investigators found participants with diabetes or pre-diabetes were more likely to have at least mild hearing loss in their ability to hear low-to-mid and high-frequency tones compared to people without diabetes.
Prediabetes is a condition that is characterised by the presence of blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classed as diabetes.
Strengthening the study’s findings, the results remained the same after accounting for major factors known to affect hearing, such as age, noise exposure, income level, and the use of certain medications.
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Researchers from the Tsukuba University Hospital Mito Medical Center in Ibaraki, Japan, echoed these findings.
The team studied the results of 13 studies involving nearly 8,800 people with hearing impairment and 23,839 people without impaired hearing.
Of those with hearing problems, they found more than 1,000 had diabetes, compared to just under 2,500 of those with normal hearing, indicating that diabetic patients are 2.3 times more likely to suffer from mild hearing loss.
How does diabetes cause hearing loss?
According to Diabetes.co.uk, while it unknown exactly why hearing loss is more common among people with diabetes, autopsy studies of diabetes patients suggest this association is caused by neuropathy (nerve damage), which is a common complication of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
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Researchers believe this nerve damage is the result of prolonged high blood sugar levels, and this may lead to hearing loss by affecting the supply of blood or oxygen to the tiny nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear.
“Over time, the nerves and blood vessels become damaged, affecting the person’s ability to hear,” explains Diabetes.co.uk.
Other symptoms of type 2 diabetes
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:
- Peeing more than usual, particularly at night
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- Feeling very tired
- Losing weight without trying to
- Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
- Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
- Blurred vision
You should see a GP if you have any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes or you’re worried you may have a higher risk of getting it, advises the NHS.
To diagnose diabetes you’ll need a blood test, which you may have to go to your local health centre for if it cannot be done at your GP surgery, explains the health body.
It is also important to act on any warning signs as soon as possible.
The NHS explains: “The earlier diabetes is diagnosed and treatment started, the better. Early treatment reduces your risk of other health problems.”
Am I at risk?
You’re more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you:
- Are over 40 (or 25 for south Asian people)
- Have a close relative with diabetes (such as a parent, brother or sister)
- Are overweight or obese
- Are of south Asian, Chinese, African Caribbean or black African origin (even If you were born in the UK)
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