Nearly 17.9 million of the 23.6 million children and adults living with diabetes in the U.S. are undiagnosed.
Miracle-Ear Center of Sequim is trying to increase public awareness of the disease and one of its not-so-well-known symptoms: hearing loss.
The American Diabetes Association has made a clear link between diabetes and hearing.
"It is often an overlooked side effect, but hearing loss is quite prevalent in people who have diabetes," said Ren Hart, owner of Miracle-Ear Center of Sequim.
"Although many people may accept diminished hearing as an inevitable part of aging, the condition may be a sign of a bigger medical complication."
A nationwide study conducted by the American Diabetes Association examined more than 5,100 adults and concluded that "people with diabetes were much more likely to have hearing loss than those without diabetes."
It's believed that the high blood glucose levels from uncontrolled diabetes can, over time, damage the small blood vessels that are critical to hearing.
"People who are unaware that they're living with diabetes and are not properly treating the disease are setting themselves up for an increased chance of experiencing hearing loss," Hart said.
"Neither diabetes nor hearing loss should be ignored because both conditions can seriously impact a person's quality of life."
According to Hart, a long list of complications can develop from untreated hearing loss ranging from a decrease in understanding speech to suffering depression and social isolation.
While an estimated one in 10 Americans - that equals about 30 million people - experience some degree of hearing loss, the typical person with symptoms waits an average of five years to see a health care professional for an evaluation.
The good news, Hart said, is that nearly 95 percent of people who are diagnosed with hearing loss can benefit from a hearing aid.
Miracle-Ear Center offers free hearing tests and consultations. Staff members consider individuals' lifestyles, environments in which they live and their style of interaction to determine any recommendations for treatment.
After being assessed, a customized hearing solution is designed to deliver overall sound clarity and improved hearing comfort.
"Hearing tests are simple and pain free and should not intimidate people from inquiring about their hearing difficulties," Hart said.
"That is why we encourage members of the Sequim-area community to get tested."
If you're concerned about your risk for diabetes, the best thing to do is schedule an appointment with your physician, Hart said.
For more information, call Miracle-Ear Center at 681-5100.
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
Business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Phone 360-683-3311, or toll free at 800-829-5810. FAX 360-683-6670.
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