Diabetes disproportionately affects older adults. Approximately 25 percent of Americans over the age of 60 years have diabetes. The aging of the US population is widely acknowledged as one of the drivers of the diabetes epidemic.

Although the burden of diabetes is often described in terms of its impact on working-aged adults, the disease also affects longevity, functional status and risk of institutionalization for older patients.

While diabetes can be managed effectively, living with the disease as you get older presents some unique challenges. Every day offers a new hurdle. And as you age, jumping over those hurdles can become a bit more challenging — but it’s not impossible. Although increased risk for specific complications increases with age, with diligence and care, you can properly mitigate those risks.

More than 37 million people in the US have diabetes and an estimated 34.5 million have some type of hearing loss. Many are experiencing both concurrently.

A recent study found that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don’t. Also, of the 133 million adults in the US who have prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher than in those with normal blood glucose (blood sugar).

It is not understood exactly how diabetes is related to hearing loss. It’s possible that the high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes cause damage to the small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear in the same way diabetes can damage the eyes and the kidneys. But more research needs to be done to discover why people with diabetes have a higher rate of hearing loss.

Since it can happen very slowly, the symptoms of hearing loss can often be hard to notice. In fact, family members and friends sometimes notice the hearing loss before the person experiencing it does.

Signs of hearing loss:

• Frequently asking others to repeat themselves
• Trouble following conversations that involve more than two people
• Thinking that others are mumbling
• Problems hearing in noisy places, such as busy restaurants
• Trouble hearing the voices of women and small children
• Turning up the TV or radio volume so that it becomes too loud for other people who are nearby
• Being unable to understand conversations over the telephone

Talk to your primary care doctor if you suspect hearing loss. You may then want to seek help from hearing specialist, such as an audiologist, a licensed hearing aid dispenser or a doctor who specializes in hearing problems. From a full hearing exam, you’ll learn more about your hearing loss and what can be done to treat it.

The American Diabetes Association in Hawai‘i is here to help. Learn how to thrive with type 2 diabetes through the ADA’s year-long program. Sign up for free at www.diabetes.org/living.

808-947-5979, ext. 7035 | Lleslie@diabetes.org