Hearing loss can happen to people of all kinds of age, sex, ethnicity and health status, but many indicators highlight an increased vulnerability for particular groups, such as the elderly.
A study from India has now suggested there is a clear link between age and associated conditions such as nephropathy and neuropathy on the one hand, and hearing loss on the other, among Type 2 diabetes sufferers.
This implies that among diabetes sufferers, those with more severe neuropathy were more likely to suffer hearing loss and thus could benefit from increased screening for it. Therefore, if you have Type 2 diabetes, it would be wise to book a free hearing test.
Of the 200 study participants, aged between 30 and 60, 81 per cent had some hearing loss. For those without neuropathy, this was down to 66.7 per cent, while for those with mild neuropathy, the prevalence was 80.9 per cent and the rate for the group with moderate to severe neuropathy was 87.6 per cent.
These figures apply to any level of hearing loss, even very slight. But what was also notable was that the greatest prevalence of significant hearing loss was in the moderate to severe group neuropathy group, where it stood at 33.3 per cent.
Another factor that was highlighted by the research was that hearing loss was worse for those with elevated glycated haemoglobin levels.
The study noted that no research had been done on the situation for those with severe neuropathy. It acknowledged this was a shortcoming of the research and therefore an area for further study, but the research that was done would imply that the prevalence of hearing loss would be even higher in that group.
Other acknowledged weaknesses in the research include the potential limitations of self-reporting and the size of the study. Nonetheless, the pattern appears to be very clear.
Because the study was carried out in India, it may have some particularly significant implications for members of the South Asian community. It is already an established fact that there are racial variations in diabetes rates in the UK, and while some of these may be linked to socio-economic or dietary factors, genetics may also play a role.
Whatever the causes, the fact is that non-white ethnic groups suffer from a far higher rate of diabetes (three to five times as high) and with large numbers of South Asian people included in this number, any genetic link that matches the findings of the Indian study will provide a good reason for sufferers with neuropathy to get checked out for signs of hearing loss.
For anyone who has hearing loss, whatever their overall health, early diagnosis is invaluable and comes with many benefits. Apart from the practical benefits of being able to communicate verbally more easily, there is a known link between hearing loss and dementia, so early intervention can prevent that from occurring.
Type 2 Diabetes can be reversed in some cases, which may help ward off associated conditions like neuropathy and therefore prevent hearing loss, but the research suggests it is important that, as long as you do have the condition, you should get your hearing checked.