There is a wide variety of symptoms of diabetes, including exhaustion, thirst, extra bathroom visits, unexplained weight loss, and more. Many of these symptoms are ones that people who don’t know much about diabetes wouldn’t think to look for, such as the ever-so-strange symptom of improved vision. But they get even weirder. Did you know that your ears could be trying to let you know that you have diabetes?
If you suffer from uncontrolled diabetes, you’re at risk for developing diabetic neuropathy, a condition in which prolonged periods of high blood glucose levels lead to hardened blood vessels and nerve damage, which can result in numbness, pain, tingling, and other sensations. These symptoms most often occur in the hands and feet, the places where it’s most difficult for blood to flow to, but it can cause issues in other areas of the body as well—even the ears.
When the blood vessels in the inner ears are hardened or narrowed by prolonged high blood sugar, the lack of blood flow to the area can cause nerve damage. The ear is a very sensitive part of the body, so even minor changes could impact your ability to hear clearly, making noises sound more muffled or quieter than you’re used to.
In fact, high blood sugar could be harming your ears even if you don’t technically have diabetes yet. The National Institute of Health conducted a study on a group of people who did not meet the criteria for diabetes and found that those with higher-than-normal blood sugar levels were 30 percent more likely to have damaged hearing. Controlling blood sugar is vital to the health of various parts of the body, but you probably didn’t expect that it would impact your ears.
So if you experience sudden or unexplained hearing loss, particularly if your hearing is getting increasingly worse, it might not just be old age—it could be a sign of poorly controlled diabetes. And if you already have nerve damage in your ear, you’re at high risk for other complications, like peripheral neuropathy in your hands and feet, ulcers, and more.
Many people live with undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes and don’t recognize the symptoms until their disease has progressed. If you have one or more symptoms of diabetes, please contact your doctor to see if you should be tested for the disease. With proper treatment and a healthy lifestyle, people with diabetes can live long, full, and healthy lives.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?