Are Hearing Loss and Diabetes Linked?

Diabetes is a fairly common disease. Over 34 million people in the United States have diabetes. According to CDC estimates, 90-95% of these people have type 2 diabetes.

Hearing loss and diabetes are two of the most widespread health concerns in the U.S. Over 48 million Americans have some form of hearing loss. It’s truly a significant volume of people with either diabetes or hearing loss. Many have both.

More and more research is showing that hearing loss and diabetes may in fact be connected. This is why it’s incredibly important to be vigilant and take potential symptoms seriously. We’ve put together a few things to keep an eye out for when it comes to your hearing health and diabetes.

Hearing Loss and Diabetes - How Does Diabetes Affect My Ears?

The changes our body makes when we’re handling any stage of diabetes can be unpredictable and hard to process. If diabetes is new to you or someone you know, it can be scary to process all the changes that may be taking place.

One big change to pay attention to can be the health of your ears and your hearing. It is thought that the risk of hearing loss increases when blood sugar levels aren’t well controlled.

NIH Research on Hearing Loss and Diabetes

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) carried out research looking at the link between hearing loss and diabetes. The results were telling. Hearing loss is up to two times more common in adults with diabetes compared to those without diabetes.

Senior author Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), said "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."

"Our study found a strong and consistent link between hearing impairment and diabetes using a number of different outcomes," she continued.

Another study, published in the National Library of Medicine, found that poor control of blood sugar levels increased the risk of a hearing impairment. The study also found that smoking and central adiposity increased the risks of a hearing impairment.

Unfortunately, scientists and researchers are still not entirely sure how diabetes and hearing loss are linked. As the American Diabetes Association notes:

“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 in which 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.”

Protecting Your Hearing With Diabetes

One difficulty with hearing loss, is that the symptoms can gradually build up over time. This means that it’s often easy to miss. In fact, it’s commonly friends and family who first notice the signs of hearing loss.

It’s important that if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, that you follow the treatment plan laid out by your doctor. You can also help protect your hearing by keeping a look out for common symptoms of hearing loss. These include: 

  • Difficulty understanding words or speech, especially when in a noisy environment.
  • Feeling like people around you are muffling.
  • Having to turn up the volume on the TV / Radio.
  • Often asking people to repeat themselves.
  • Tinnitus (also known as ringing in your ear).

You can also take preventative measures by actively looking after your hearing. Get started with our hearing loss prevention guide by clicking here.

Why are hearing assessments important?

It’s important to note that regular annual hearing assessments are one of the best ways to identify hearing loss. If you are overdue a hearing assessment, make today the day you book in with your local hearing healthcare specialist. To book an appointment with HearingLife (formerly Family Audiology), call 607-323-4061 or click here to book a consultation with us online.

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