Hearing loss may be an overlooked topic discussed in the diabetes community, but it’s certainly an important one. The study found that people with diabetes were twice as likely to have hearing loss as people with diabetes, and people with prediabetes had a 30 percent higher rate of hearing loss compared to people without diabetes.
“Hearing loss is more common in people with diabetes,” said Shelly Borgia, Ph. “Hearing organs depend on good blood circulation, and if blood circulation is compromised, your hearing may be affected.”
Read on to learn more about hearing loss in people with diabetes, causes and risk factors, treatment and prevention.
Hearing Loss and Diabetes
Diabetes is an umbrella term for diseases that impair the body’s ability to metabolize glucose (sugar) due to insulin deficiency, insulin omission, insulin resistance, or some combination. The most common types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. The association between hearing loss and diabetes does not appear to be affected by the type of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks the cells of the pancreas that make insulin. Insulin is a hormone with multiple functions that is essential for bringing sugar into our cells for energy. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin by injection or infusion to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease and the most common type of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s sensitivity to insulin decreases and/or there is not enough insulin. For many people with type 2 diabetes, their disease can be managed with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. However, depending on blood sugar levels and other health conditions, medication may also be required.
Discussions about the link between diabetes and hearing loss have existed for decades, but research on why the link exists is mixed. There are many factors that contribute to hearing loss in people with diabetes.
The causes of hearing loss in people with diabetes are complex.Human and animal studies show cochlear implant (the inner ear that translates sound) and nerve loss associated with small vessel disease (microangiopathy), oxidative stress, and cell death (also known as Glutamate excitotoxicity).
Decreased blood supply or circulation problems can also affect hearing. One of the most common types of hearing loss in people with type 2 diabetes is called Presbyopiaa permanent and progressive sensorineural hearing loss.
Hearing loss is more common with age, and prolonged exposure to loud noise also increases the risk of hearing loss. High and low blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia (two side effects of diabetes), may also increase the risk of hearing loss by damaging nerves.
In the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial Epidemiology of Diabetes and Complications (DCCT/EDIC) cohort, among participants with type 1 diabetes, every 10% increase in hemoglobin A1c (three-month mean blood glucose) was associated with a Perception is impaired, and high-frequency hearing loss increases by 19%. Therefore, there appears to be a correlation between glycemic control and hearing loss.
Other research suggests that certain types of medications prescribed for people with diabetes, such as aspirin, certain antibiotics, and blood sugar-lowering drugs, may cause hearing loss.
Additionally, other health conditions may contribute to hearing loss. Some of these include diabetic retinopathy and kidney disease; These microvascular complications of diabetes affect the small blood vessels in the body.
Age is one of the biggest risk factors for hearing loss. About one-third of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and nearly half of those over the age of 75 have difficulty hearing. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss in adults aged 20 to 69, with the greatest hearing loss in the 60 to 69 age group.
Other risk factors include gender, race, economic status, and other health conditions. Among adults aged 20-69, men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss.
Researchers collected data on 536 participants aged 20-69 who completed hearing tests in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2004, diagnosed or undiagnosed for diabetes. They found that people who were older, non-Hispanic white, male or had a lower income were more likely to develop hearing impairment. People with diabetes who had low high-density lipoprotein (HDL), had a history of coronary heart disease, had symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, or reported poor health also showed a greater likelihood of hearing impairment.
It is paradoxical that both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia increase the risk of hearing loss, regardless of glycemic control. Some studies have shown that blood sugar control (high or low blood sugar) is associated with an increased risk of hearing loss, Other researchers did not find an association between hearing impairment and the duration of hyperglycemia and diabetes.
Hearing loss can happen slowly, and family members may notice changes in your hearing before you. Hearing problems can affect your balance and your quality of life, as it can be difficult to hear in loud places and ask others to repeat themselves.
If you are concerned about your own hearing or that of a loved one, you should consult an audiologist. An audiologist will perform a comprehensive examination to assess your hearing and balance. They can also help you choose a treatment option.
Dr. Borgia recommends hearing tests at any age. “It’s important to know your individual hearing level. At the very least, everyone 50 and older should have a hearing test, as one in 10 people will be affected by age-related hearing loss.”
Treatment of hearing loss should be individualized, depending on the type and severity of hearing loss. Some treatment options include:
- hearing aid
- tinnitus masker
- vestibular repositioning
People with diabetes can prevent hearing loss by:
- control their blood sugar
- maintain a healthy diet
- move your body regularly
- undergo annual inspection
- Evaluate their medications
- Avoid high noise exposure
Adopting a Mediterranean-style diet may help prevent hearing loss, a study suggests.
When to see a healthcare provider
If you have diabetes and have never seen an audiologist, you should have your hearing assessed at baseline and reassessed every year or two. Additionally, “everyone who has any concerns about hearing, such as fullness, tinnitus, noise exposure, or pain, should see an audiologist or otolaryngologist,” Borgia said.
There are many reasons why people with diabetes can experience hearing loss, some within your control and some not. But the good news is that hearing loss is preventable and treatable.
Maintaining good blood sugar control can have an impact on your overall health and can reduce the risk of all diabetes complications. If you need help keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range, contact your healthcare team and consider meeting with a certified diabetes care and education specialist. They can help you develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, as well as medication management and the prevention and treatment of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.
If you are over 50 and have never seen an audiologist, you can arrange for a screening. Even if you don’t think there’s anything wrong with your hearing, early screening can help prevent it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if diabetes is not treated?
Diabetes of any type must be treated to prevent short- and long-term complications. Hyperglycemia (or high blood sugar) can damage both large and small blood vessels and lead to systemic disease. In people with type 1 diabetes, high blood sugar can lead to a medical emergency called diabetic ketoacidosis. If left untreated, diabetic ketoacidosis can be life-threatening.
Is hearing loss reversible?
Hearing loss occurs when any part of the ear or the nerves that carry sound information to the brain does not work properly. Damage to the inner ear or auditory nervous system is usually permanent, but some types of hearing loss may be temporary. It depends on which part of the ear is affected. The key to maintaining your hearing is prevention.