The American Diabetes Association has added a discussion of hearing loss and an important factor to consider in the plan of care for diabetics in their 2021 Standard of Medical Care.
We have known for years that people with diabetes are at twice the risk of experiencing sensorineural hearing loss compared to the general population. We also know that hearing loss exacerbates issues like fall risk and cognitive decline (memory loss and slower brain function) that are significantly impacted by diabetes, as well.
While we still have a lot to learn, we know that the causes of this relationship include damage to the tiny blood vessels in the ear (cochlear microangiopathy), reduced ability to heal and rebuild from noise damage (oxidative stress), and less organized nerve function (auditory neuropathy).
Long term collaborative goals include ear level glucose monitors integrated into the hearing aids of the future and linking screening events for diabetes with screenings for hearing changes, vision changes, and more.
It is recommended that individuals with diabetes have a baseline hearing assessment at diagnosis and repeat evaluations annually to monitor for changes.
While diabetes is a complex disease to manage, early intervention and prudent management can help individuals stay well. Hearing monitoring and management can help support ongoing healthy brain function, balance, mental health, and healthy aging in place.