Hanneke Rabé








By: Hanneke Rabé

The saying goes: “You are what you eat”, and so it is not surprising that we are seeing an increase of health problems when we look at our average South African diet.  South Africa also happens to be a hot-pot of two opposing yet surprisingly related issues: obesity and nutritional deficiency.

According to the National health and Nutrition Examination survey conducted in 2014, an alarming 40% of our rural and informal urban populations are nutritionally deficient and face a lack of dietary diversity and show a low food security.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, urban regions and populations with higher income showed a much higher rate of high fat and high sugar intake which was directly linked to higher rates of obesity in these populations.

Low income households generally cannot afford and have limited access to different types of fresh produce which result in these families selecting products with much higher fat and sugar content, and foods that are more processed with a longer shelf-life.  This results in malnutrition which in turns impact on your immune functioning and general functioning every day.  Higher income households are often spoiled for choice, but there the problem lies more specifically in just that – the choice.

Foods may appear convenient and delicious but are they truly nourishing and fuelling our bodies?

Are we paying enough attention to what we are putting into our bodies?

Recent studies have identified a direct link between Diabetes Mellitus and sensorineural hearing loss (hearing loss resulting from damage to the inner-ear or cochlea AND the nerve).  It appears that diabetes results in angiopathy or breakdown in the small blood vessels of the cochlea and nerve and therefore patients with diabetes often show much more damage to the small hair cells within the cochlea than patients without diabetes.  It is not surprising to see in a recent study that 54% of persons with diabetes presented with hearing loss as opposed to 34% of non-diabetic persons.  Studies have also shown that persons who experience regular and significant fluctuations in their blood-glucose (blood sugar) levels, tend to show faster deterioration in their hearing compared to individuals with more controlled blood-glucose levels and interestingly persons with Type II Diabetes showed more severe and faster deterioration in their hearing than persons with Type I (insulin dependent) Diabetes.

Diabetes and hearing loss

Here is how you can protect your hearing whether you have high blood sugar or not:

  • Avoid excessive noise exposure – when you have diabetes or high blood sugar your auditory system is already vulnerable and therefore we must take our utmost care to preserve our hearing.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain good blood circulation and cardiovascular health.
  • Watch your weight – obesity is a leading cause of heart disease and is also related to developing insulin resistance.
  • Have your hearing assessed or screened annually to monitor for changes in your hearing.


Vasilyeva, O. N., Frisina, S. T., Zhu, X., Walton, J. P., & Frisina, R. D. (2009). Interactions of hearing loss and Diabetes Mellitus in the middle age CBA/CaJ mouse model of presbycusis. Hear Res, 291(1), 44-53.

Wackym, P. A., & Linthicum, F. H. (1986). Diabetes mellitus and hearing loss: clinical and histopathologic relationships. The American Journal of Otology., 7(3), 176-182.

Writer, B. T. (2016, January 31). Business Tech. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from https://businesstech.co.za/news/lifestyle/110325/this-is-what-the-typical-diet-looks-like-in-south-africa/