November is National Diabetes Month, because of this, I wanted to highlight the relationship between diabetes and ear health (hearing and balance).

While hearing loss can happen for many reasons, having diabetes and pre-diabetes puts you at a significantly higher risk for hearing loss and balance issues.

The Connection Between Diabetes And Ear Health 

Diabetes can lead to nerve damage throughout your body, not only your hands and feet but also your ears. What causes this? Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the small blood vessels and nerves in your inner ear (including the cochlea – or organ of hearing).

Conversely, low blood sugar over time can damage how the nerve signal travels from your cochlea to your brain. Once the damage is done, it cannot be reversed and will cause sensorineural hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss is twice as common in people who have diabetes and is 30% more common in people with pre-diabetes.

The inner ear isn’t just responsible for your hearing, but it is also one of the integral inputs for your vestibular (balance) system. The same damage that can affect your hearing can also distort the input from your vestibular system.

Also, the potential nerve damage in the eyes and feet can become problematic as you rely on vision and feeling in your feet for your balance as well. Because of this, you are more likely to fall if you have diabetes.

Tips To Keep Your Ears Healthy 

  • Get your hearing checked every year
  • Keep your blood sugar as close to your target levels as possible
  • Wear hearing protection
  • Bring a full list of your medications (OTC and prescribed) and ask your doctor or pharmacist whether any of them could potentially damage your hearing and if so if there are other options
  • Do not clean your ears with objects like cotton swabs, pencils, or paperclips. It is very easy to scratch the ear canal and people with diabetes are at a higher risk of infection. Cotton swabs can also cause an ear wax impaction, which can be painful to remove.

Signs Of Hearing Loss 

  • Often asking others to repeat themselves
  • Trouble following conversations with more than one person
  • Thinking that others seem to be mumbling
  • Problem hearing in noisy environments such as restaurants or parties
  • Trouble hearing voices of small children or others with softer voices
  • Turning up the TV or radio volume louder than others would prefer
  • Hearing loss can make you appear confused or as if you aren’t paying attention
  • Hearing tinnitus (ringing or other noises) in your ears or head

Signs Of Balance Issues 

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling like your head is spinning
  • Feeling like you may fall or that you don’t trust yourself when walking up and down stairs or walking on uneven surfaces

When To schedule An appointment? 

Just like you would get your eyes, teeth, and feet checked, you should be getting your hearing checked annually like clockwork. Also, if you are noticing any signs of hearing loss or balance issues, now is the time to schedule an evaluation with one of the audiologists on our team!

If you are ready to schedule an appointment or you have further questions about diabetes and ear health, please call us at 256-319-4327 or submit a contact request and one of our helpful team members will call you back shortly.  

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Dr. Susan Sheehy

Dr. Sheehy earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in audiology at the University of Alabama before beginning her career as a clinical audiologist in Huntsville. In 2005, she received her doctorate in audiology from Salus University. Dr. Sheehy is one of a specialized subset of audiologists certified in tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT). By appointment from the governor, she has served as a member and chairperson of the Alabama Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.
    Basic Hearing Test

    A basic hearing test begins with an air conduction test. You will be seated in a soundproof booth and single-use, foam earphones will be inserted into your ear canals. The Audiologist will ask you to push a button or raise your hand when you barely hear a series of beeps (tones) presented at various frequencies (pitches) to obtain your air conduction thresholds.

    To determine whether your hearing loss is a conductive (mechanical) loss, sensorineural (permanent) loss or combination of the two, we perform a bone conduction test.  

    For this test, a head band is place on the bone behind one of the ears to obtain your bone conduction thresholds. This process provides a different form of sound transmission using vibration, which bypasses the eardrum and the middle ear bones and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. When you hear the beeps/tones, you will push a button or raise your hand.

    If bone conduction thresholds are better than air conduction thresholds (through the foam inserts), you have a conductive hearing loss. This suggests a problem with the mechanical structures (moving parts) of the ears.

    Conductive hearing loss is often a medically treatable condition for which we will provide you with a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician. However, if bone and air conduction thresholds match, it indicates a sensorineural hearing loss (permanent), and the treatment will likely involve hearing aids.

    ALL INCLUSIVE PLAN

    $6,790

    Comprehensive 5-Year treatment plan with premium technology

    If you want premium “out of this world” technology and the highest level of service and expert support, our All-Inclusive treatment plan is the right investment for you.

    The All-Inclusive treatment plan offers long-term value for your on-the-go lifestyle, providing everything you need to connect with family and friends for years to come.

    Includes:

    • Stellar hearing devices from top manufacturer (rechargeable option available)

    • Wireless accessory included at no charge

    • Comprehensive Annual Visit including hearing assessment, hearing device adjustment, and 19-Point preventative maintenance valutaion

    • Bi-annual hearing aid software update and reprogramming

    • Same day diagnosis and in-office repair during weekdays for devices dropped off before 3:00 p.m.

    • 5-Year full-service repair warranty

    • Unlimited remote hearing aid adjustments

    • 100% moisture removal by Redux and cleaning

    • Hearing aid supplies (stock receivers, batteries, domes and filters)

    • $1000 contribution towards purchase of upgraded technology within 48 months

    • 3-Year replacement warranty for loss or damage (no deductible)

    • Dedicated team of hearing care experts at your service

    • Unlimited teleaudiology appointments

    • Access to our “speed of light” repair specialists

    Schedule Appointment

    Choose Your Level of Technology

    A Comprehensive12-Step Functional Hearing Assessment

    If you struggle to understand conversations in social situations, restaurants, or other noisy environments, you do not need to schedule a basic hearing test. You certainly don’t need to schedule a “free” hearing screening or online hearing test.

    You need to schedule a “Connect 365” Functional Hearing Assessment at Alabama Hearing Associates!

    Hearing Technology with a Methodical Plan

    Our community understands better than most what can be achieved when you combine technology with human intelligence and persistence. It is much the same with hearing technology.

    The latest hearing aid technology is incredibly powerful, offering stellar sound quality and performance. Wireless connections allow phone calls, music and television to stream directly to your hearing aids for exceptional clarity.

    But hearing aids do not fit and program themselves! For best outcomes, you also need the human touch and expertise provided by our Doctors of Audiology.

    How do I know my new hearing aids are working properly?

    Without verifying that the hearing aid is working correctly from the start, all of the other steps in the hearing aid fitting process are useless. The most sensitive quality control measure is something called Electroacoustic Analysis. We complete EAA on every new set of hearing aids, before delivery of repaired devices, and on an annual basis.

    What Is Real-Ear Measurement?

    Real-ear measurement (REM) is how an audiologist knows that hearing aids are working the way they should in each patient’s ears.

    Ears are as unique as a fingerprint. Because of this, every ear will collect sounds differently.

    Even if I had two patients with the exact same hearing loss and hearing aids, there’s almost no chance the hearing aids would be programmed the same way.

    Orientation, Counseling, and Follow-up

    Dr. Cliff (the creator of the Best Practice Pro Network) said it best:

    “Having a detailed orientation can dramatically improve how much success you have with hearing treatment.  Counseling & Follow-up care can also ensure that you have success for years to come.  Regular visits to a hearing care provider who spends the time to discuss treatment related information and who will maintain your devices is extremely important.”

    During the orientation, your provider will give you the tools you need to be a successful hearing aid user. Everyone has different learning styles and we want to make sure whatever works best for you is what’s used. After the 75 day adjustment period, routine checkups are necessary to maintain the hearing aids and to ensure optimal hearing healthcare. 

    Real World Adjustments

    Your hearing loss didn't occur overnight, so it will take some time to adjust to the hearing aids. Your patience and persistence will be well worth it.

    Wireless Connections

    Most hearing aids automatically come with wireless streaming from smartphones and it has been a lifesaver for those that are working remotely and spending hours on teleconferences. As for other wireless accessories, the two most popular solutions are a small microphone used in less-than-ideal listening environments and a TV streamer that streams the TV’s sound directly into your ears—which can be a lifesaver when watching British TV shows or during football season. If your audiologist believes they would be beneficial for you, they will discuss your options and demonstrate the device in the office.

    Assessing Outcomes

    To ensure the most success with your hearing devices, we measure the benefits of amplification at the end of your adjustment period—some of the surveys and tests included in the “Connect 365” Functional Hearing Assessment will be repeated to evaluate progress, quality of life, and patient satisfaction with the hearing aids.