Diabetes, Dementia & Hearing

31 million people with Diabetes are an increased risk of developing Dementia and Hearing Loss. November is National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the country team up bringing attention to Diabetes. You may think Diabetes has something to do with ‘diet and sugar intake’ and while that may be true, it impacts nearly every aspect of life including how it affects your hearing health care and risk of developing Dementia. 

The most crippling effects result from diabetic neuropathy; nerve damage that results from high blood sugar, injuring nerves throughout the body. Researchers believe that over time uncontrolled high blood sugar damages nerves interfering with their ability to send signals, leading to diabetic neuropathy. High blood sugar weakens the walls of the small blood vessels (capillaries) that supply the nerves with oxygen and nutrients. For most, the symptoms only become evident when they feel ‘numbness and tingling’ in their feet, hands, arms and legs. The impact of diabetic neuropathy on internal organs - the brain, heart and ears - can go undetected for too long. 

In one of the earliest studies on diabetic neuropathy from the Journal of American Medical Association, decreased hearing acuity in patients with Diabetes was indicated to be the result of degenerative neuropathy of the auditory nerve. The finding that Diabetes increases the risk of developing hearing loss has since been reported countless times in peer-reviewed scientific research, including a report released this past summer in which researchers stressed the importance of individuals with Diabetes having their hearing loss evaluated and treated as early as possible. 

Diabetes also increases the risk of developing Dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease is the 5th leading cause of death in the elderly. Individuals affected by Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes have a resistance to insulin. Type 1 is caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin. Type 2 is caused by the deterioration of the body’s insulin receptors and is associated with the consumption of too many refined carbohydrates - processed grains and sugar. Studies began to appear in the 2000’s indicating a correlation between insulin and brain cell deterioration, and major breakthroughs were made surrounding Alzheimer’s and Dementia prevention. Could Alzheimer’s Disease simply be Type 3 Diabetes? 

Will Dennison