Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Recent studies have confirmed that there is a link between diabetes and hearing loss. In 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that hearing loss is twice as common in people who have diabetes. 

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), nearly 35 million people in the United States have some form of hearing loss; many of them have either diabetes or prediabetes. The ADA states, “Of the 79 million adults thought to have pre-diabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher than in those with normal blood sugar.”

In a pivotal 2008 NIH study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed data from hearing tests of adults between the ages of 20 and 69. They concluded that diabetes may contribute to hearing loss by damaging nerves and blood vessels—this damage was seen in autopsy studies. Similar studies have shown a possible link between that hearing loss and neuropathy (nerve damage).

Causes of Hearing Loss With Diabetes

Currently, experts aren’t entirely sure how diabetes is related to hearing loss. It's possible that the high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes cause damage to the small blood vessels in the inner ear, similar to the way diabetes can damage the eyes and the kidneys. But more research needs to be done to discover why people with diabetes have a higher rate of hearing loss.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be so gradual that you may not notice it. Children and adults can experience hearing loss at any time. Don’t think that you’re too young to be losing your hearing. Ask yourself the following questions if you think you might be at risk for hearing loss:

  • Have your friends or family members complained that you’re not listening?
  • Do you frequently ask people to repeat themselves?
  • Do you complain that people are always mumbling?
  • Do you have problems following conversations with more than two people?
  • Have people complained that you listen to the television or radio too loudly?
  • Do you have trouble understanding conversations in crowded rooms or loud or busy restaurants?

If you answered yes to more than one of those questions, you should have your hearing tested immediately to assess the existing loss and prevent further damage.

Preventing and Treating Diabetes-Related Hearing Loss

All people with diabetes should have their hearing checked each year. The best way to avoid complications caused by diabetes is to closely monitor your blood glucose levels, reduce hypertension, keep off excess weight, and exercise daily. Also, keep in mind  that the long-term use of earphones set on the loudest volume can contribute greatly to hearing loss, especially if you’re already at risk.