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Diabetes can worsen hearing

by: COURTESY OF KIM DOTSON - HIGH-TECH TESTING LEADS TO DIAGNOSIS - Kim Dotson, using her audiometer, tests the hearing of Whitney Gallup, 22, in the hearing booth in her office. Gallup, who has worn hearing aids since she was a child, graduated from college in June.  Kim Dotson, co-owner of the King City Sonus clinic, always asks patients about their medical history, especially if they have diabetes. She has found that about 25 to 30 percent of her patients are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

Studies show that diabetes can damage the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear. Individuals with diabetes have high glucose levels, and these high glucose levels may cause the blood to thicken (called "hyperviscosity"). The inner ear can experience a thickening of the capillaries in its cell walls.

Blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients to the cells. If not enough nutrients and oxygen reach the hair cells in the inner ear, hearing loss could occur.

"I try to stress the connection between diabetes and hearing loss to my diabetic patients, so they are aware of what to watch out for," Dotson said.

According to Dotson, out of Oregon's population of about 3.9 million, 300,000 people are diabetic, and 600,000 are pre-diabetic.

"A lot of this is due to the aging baby boomers plus higher obesity rates," Dotson said.

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is associated with children and young adults. With this type, the body does not produce enough insulin. With Type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce enough or properly use insulin.