A Link Between Hearing Loss & Diabetes  

A Link Between Hearing Loss & Diabetes  

Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition people experience today. Impacting over 48 million people, nearly 1 in 6 people have some degree of impaired hearing. There are numerous factors that can cause hearing loss including existing medical conditions like diabetes. 

According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 38 million people have diabetes in the United States and 1.5 million people are diagnosed annually. Studies show that people with diabetes can be twice as likely to develop hearing loss. Practicing preventative measures can reduce the risk of hearing loss and help protect your health. 

Link Between Hearing Loss & Diabetes

Substantial research reveals a correlation between diabetes and hearing loss. A significant study that investigates the link between both conditions was conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, this study consisted of 11,405 participants with and without diabetes. Researchers conducted hearing tests and assessed diabetes and found that among adults with diabetes:  

  • 21% experienced a mild or greater hearing loss of low or mid-frequency sounds compared to 9% of adults without diabetes.
  • 54% experienced a mild or greater hearing loss of high-frequency sounds compared to 32% of adults without diabetes. 
  • Adults with prediabetes had a 30% higher rate of hearing loss 

This data shows that people with adults with diabetes were more than twice as likely to experience hearing loss of low to mid frequency sounds. These findings support other studies that identify diabetes as a factor that increases the risk of hearing loss. Lead researcher of this study (Catherine Cowie, Ph.D.) remarked that, “hearing loss may be an under-recognized complication of diabetes. As diabetes becomes more common, the disease may become a more significant contributor to hearing loss.”

Impact of Diabetes on Hearing Health

You may be wondering how exactly diabetes and hearing health are related. Diabetes is a group of conditions (Type 1, Type 1) of diseases that are characterized by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. Glucose is what is broken down from the food we consume which eventually provides energy the body’s systems need to sustain. Excess glucose levels are caused by the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the insulin that is produced is not being used effectively. 

High blood glucose levels can contribute to hearing loss in a few ways. It can damage blood vessels and nerves in the body including in the ear. This also includes the hair cells in the inner ear which play a crucial role in how sound is processed. There are thousands of hair cells in the cochlea which convert incoming sound waves into electrical signals. These signals get sent to the brain which continues processing and assigning meaning to these signals, allowing us to understand what we hear. Restricted blood flow can damage these hair cells which prevents them from performing their essential function. This results in the brain receiving less auditory information, causing chronic hearing loss. 

Protecting Hearing Health

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can reduce the risk of hearing loss and  protect your hearing health including: 

  1. Monitor diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is important to prioritize care for your condition by taking all medications and practicing any measures or regimens your doctor has outlined. 
  2. Test hearing. Hearing tests comprehensively evaluate your hearing health in a painless and noninvasive way. Integrating hearing tests in annual health check-ins is a great way to track your hearing health. If you experience any changes or develop any symptoms, this allows you to seek treatment early on which significantly helps protect your hearing as well as overall health. 
  3. Reduce loud noise exposure. A common cause of hearing loss is one time or consistent exposure to loud noise. If you have diabetes or are prediabetic and already experience a higher risk of developing hearing loss, it is useful to reduce your exposure to loud noise. There are numerous ways you can do this including wearing hearing protection (headphones, earbuds), avoiding noisy settings, and taking listening breaks throughout the day. 

These strategies can significantly reduce your risk of hearing loss. To learn more about how you can protect your hearing and the resources available to help you do so, contact us today