Two things you wouldn't think were connected actually are — diabetes and hearing loss. As it turns out, they are two of America’s most widespread health concerns.

“Nearly 26 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and an estimated 34.5 million have some type of hearing loss. Those are large groups of people, and it appears there is a lot of overlap between the two,” according to the American Diabetes Association.

Research has shown that more than 70 percent of diabetics between the ages of 50 and 69 have a hearing impairment. The data suggest that those with diabetes may experience hearing loss at an earlier age.

Why are diabetes and hearing loss connected?

Unfortunately, doctors and researchers do not know how diabetes is related to hearing loss. One theory is linked to diabetic complications. Retinopathy, nephropathy, and peripheral arterial disease are vascular in origin, and it's possible that vascular damage may also harm the neural system of the ear.

Diabetics have less keratin, a protein that lines the ear canal, which may cause hearing loss.

Another study noted that poor control of diabetes correlated with worsening hearing for those with diabetes.

Signs of hearing loss include:

  • Trouble hearing in noisy places

  • Muffled hearing

  • Asking others to repeat themselves

What to do if you are experiencing hearing loss

Hearing loss can happen slowly and can be hard to notice. Friends and family members may be the first to notice. If you think you may be experiencing hearing loss, contact your doctor who may refer you to a specialist.

Protect your hearing

There are ways you can help prevent your hearing from getting worse. Wearing earplugs in noisy environments where you must raise your voice to be heard is helpful in protecting your ears. For those experiencing hearing loss, taking a hearing test once a year will help gauge if it is becoming worse.

To learn more on this topic:

Hearing Impairment is Common Among Adults With Diabetes
Rates of Diabetic Retinopathy on the Rise
What is Diabetic Neuropathy?