November is American Diabetes Month. Have you seen any Public Service Announcements? Have you heard any discussion on talk shows about diabetes? Do you know the theme from the American Diabetes Association for this year? Does the National Football League have any special armbands or colors that the players and coaches are wearing in November? I was happy to see all the teams sporting camouflage in honor of Veteran’s Day. Last month every team wore pink in some fashion to raise awareness of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Would you even be aware that November is American Diabetes Month if you were not reading this column?
A Lack of Awareness?
Where are the Audiology professional organizations? Are they issuing any special press releases that talk about the connection between hearing loss and diabetes? Are they even aware that November is another prime time to alert the public about hearing loss?
Maybe I should be mad at the American Diabetes Association as well for not producing any public service announcements about the disease. Diabetes affects not only the patient, but their family. Families need to learn how to cook differently. They need to learn to exercise more. And, they need to encourage the person with the disease to take care of themselves by testing their blood sugar regularly, have the annual eye and foot exam, and add a hearing test to their routine.
As an audiologist, I get frustrated with our national organizations and their lack of public awareness campaigns.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) has released an article that reminds Americans that November 14th is World Diabetes Day. If you google press releases about diabetes and hearing loss, the BHI article is front and center. This organization is grabbing every opportunity to raise awareness about hearing loss and how it ties to common diseases.
The National Institute of Health issued a press release several years ago encouraging those with diabetes to have a hearing test. So, even the government has released information about diabetes. But I haven’t seen anything yet on the internet or in my inbox about American Diabetes Month from the professional organizations where I am a long-standing member. To some extent I am a little embarrassed that the professional organizations are wasting a huge opportunity to make a big splash in the media about the connection between diabetes and hearing loss.
Maybe the professionals who write the press releases at the Audiology organizations do not realize that diabetes affects over 30 million Americans. This is a big number. The American Diabetes Association website suggests that over 80 million Americans are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
In May, ASHA sponsors Better Hearing and Speech month. In October, AAA sponsors Audiology Awareness and National Protect Your Hearing Month. These organizations seem to be laser focused on only their awareness months, and are not taking advantage of press releases, public service announcements and reminders to professionals.
In my practice I ask questions of patient’s health issues. If the patient says they have diabetes, I tell them to have an annual hearing test, just like they have an annual visit to their podiatrist and eye doctor. When I send the report to the physician, I recommend an annual hearing test to monitor their hearing due to diabetes.
My husband is diabetic. When he was first diagnosed with diabetes, we both did a lot of research on the disease. When I found out that blood flow can be restricted and potentially cause hearing loss, we began doing annual hearing tests to monitor his hearing. His first endocrinologist did not suggest an annual hearing test because the American Diabetes Association did not specifically recommend it.
When my husband was first diagnosed, there were no articles on the American Diabetes Association website regarding hearing loss, but there are now. My husband has an annual hearing test. His physician now refers all of his diabetic patients for an annual hearing test.
The Costs Add Up
Hearing loss and diabetes cost Americans billions of dollars each year. Supposedly, the cost for just diabetes and the treatment of those with the disease in dollars exceeds $240 billion dollars annually. The cost of medical care for diabetics is about two times higher than those without diabetes.
People with diabetes are at greater risk for heart attacks and death from heart disease. People with diabetes are more likely to have hearing loss, which can cause reduced work productivity due to not hearing well on the job.
I send a fax to about 1500 physicians once a month. I try to remind them politely that hearing loss affects almost 40 million Americans. I try to remind them that November is American Diabetes Month and that every diabetic should have an annual hearing test. I am trying to educate the physicians about hearing loss and common diseases. I would like to know that my professional organizations were using their leverage to inform the public about hearing loss all year round, and not just once a year.