Sugar may be one of our favorite things, but can it hurt our ears and cause spikes to tinnitus?
To understand this, we will examine how our blood sugar is affected by what we eat. Our bodies break down carbohydrates (carbs) into glucose. Glucose is a form of sugar. When insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, is released and interacts with cells in our body, the sugar in our blood enters into cells. These cells then use the sugar to create energy and continue their functioning. This is a normal process that is essential for many organs, including the inner ear, which requires a steady supply of oxygen and glucose.
Eating candy or sugar can allow this glucose to enter our blood faster. These types of carbohydrates are called “simple carbohydrates” and are easier for the body to process than other foods. Over time, cells can develop a resistance to what the insulin is meant to do, meaning it can take more insulin to reach the same goals as before.
This can lead to something called hyperinsulinemia. This is a temporary condition of having higher than normal levels of insulin in your bloodstream. If hyperinsulinemia continues, your pancreas may not be able to produce as much insulin as your body is demanding. This can lead to diabetes.
What Does Sugar Do To Ringing Ears?
Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia can make blood sugar levels remain high as the sugars aren’t able to easily enter your cells. Having a high amount of sugar in your blood can damage blood vessels and auditory nerves, and can also negatively affect oxygen supply to the inner ear, causing interference with its various functions.
Hyperinsulinemia may also interfere with how the inner ear regulates appropriate amounts of potassium and sodium in its fluid. This can lead to reduced functioning of cells in the inner ear that help transport sound to the auditory nerve. This can cause decreased functioning of these cells, which may also cause tinnitus. In short, having insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia can in fact lead to tinnitus over a period of time.
What Do We Know About Sugar, Hearing, and Tinnitus?
There is a known correlation between hearing loss and high blood sugar levels. Those who have diabetes or even pre-diabetes, conditions in which blood sugar levels are high, are more likely to have hearing loss. This is particularly true when the conditions are untreated.
Those who have diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss as those the same age who don’t have diabetes. People with pre-diabetes also have a 30% higher chance of having hearing loss than those with normal blood sugar levels. Both high blood sugar and low blood sugar can damage delicate blood vessels and nerves in the ear, which can lead to hearing loss.
There is also a correlation between hyperinsulinemia and tinnitus, shown by a study done on 52 tinnitus patients. Those who had hyperinsulinemia, 76% of the studied group, were put on a diabetic diet for four months. After this time was completed, patients on that special diet said the severity of their tinnitus decreased significantly. This means that those who have hyperinsulinemia may improve their tinnitus by following a diabetic diet.
While tinnitus does not always cause hearing loss and hearing loss does not always cause tinnitus, there is a link between the two. In those who have tinnitus, there is usually some degree of hearing loss, even if it is imperceptible or slight. The opposite is not always true though–many people with hearing loss may not have tinnitus.
Damage to the small structures of the inner ear, such as the cochlea, and auditory nerve can lead to hearing loss. This damage may also be related to changes in both the brain and auditory nervous pathways that lead to both temporary and chronic tinnitus. Lifestyle changes of foods eaten and increased exercise to lower blood sugar may be recommended in order to preserve the ears and prevent any worsening of tinnitus. Exercise also has the added benefit of helping your tinnitus in other ways. You may not be able to get rid of your tinnitus, but you could possibly reduce it.
Will Eating Sugar Cause Tinnitus?
In the short term, eating high amounts of sugar or candy won’t necessarily cause immediate or long-term effects on the ears or on tinnitus. However, eating sweets may cause a quick, temporary increase in blood sugar in some people. This is true even if they are not aware they have any insulin or blood sugar issues. This blood sugar increase may lead to temporary effects on structures in the inner ear, which can lead to tinnitus. Thankfully, it is highly likely that this will be short-lived tinnitus with no lasting effects.
Therefore, you may have the occasional consumption of sweets without worrying that it is likely to cause a prolonged change in your tinnitus. It is important to note, however, that moderation is key. There can be long-term effects from excessive sugar consumption that can affect both your hearing and tinnitus. This occurs through processes related to hyperinsulinemia and diabetes.
How much is too much sugar consumption? This depends on many factors and you should consult your doctor for specific instructions. However, the recommended daily maximum amount of added sugar for an adult without diabetes or other blood sugar disorders is six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men.
How much is that really? 25 grams or 100 calories for women and 36 grams or 150 calories for men. This is likely to be a lower amount than most are currently consuming in their diets on a regular basis. In a real life example, a single 12-ounce can of soda is around eight teaspoons, or 32 grams, of sugar. That means one can of soda can be your entire day’s allotment of sugar in a single drink. Added sugars are also hidden in many items including breads, salad dressings, and even pizza.
Thankfully the occasional overdose of sugar won’t cause lasting problems for your tinnitus, but routinely going over your recommended amount could cause problems. It is best to watch your long-term amount of sugars and other simple carbs to help protect your ears as best as possible. If you have uncontrolled issues with your blood sugar, talk to your doctor about how to possibly reduce your tinnitus by stabilizing your blood sugar.
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