Communication Matters

Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Laura L. Brady, AuD, CCC-A | Posted on May 20, 2019

friends enjoying mealThe number of people in the United States diagnosed with diabetes has risen to more than 50 percent in the last decade. If you’re one of the 30 million Americans with diabetes, take note! 

Research indicates that people with diabetes are more than twice as likely to develop hearing loss compared to those without the disease. The rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher for the 84 million adults in the U.S. who are prediabetic compared to those with normal blood glucose levels.

Right now, we aren’t sure how diabetes is related to hearing loss. Some researchers theorized that since Type II diabetes is more prevalent in older adults, hearing loss may partly be a result of aging. But, a 2012 study found that people with diabetes were more likely to experience hearing loss than those without the disease, regardless of their age.

Some theories suggest that the high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes cause damage to the small blood vessels in the inner ear, similar to how diabetes can damage the eyes and the kidneys. Another possibility involves lipids (fats) metabolizing in the blood. When your body doesn't produce enough insulin to utilize glucose, fats break down at a higher rate than average and can result in high blood lipid levels, which can affect blood vessels; a condition called arteriosclerosis.

Arteriosclerosis can narrow or block blood vessels. A deficient supply of blood can damage nerves and result in diabetic neuropathy in all parts of your body, including the nerves linked to hearing. It is also possible that high lipid levels in the blood could lead to lipid deposits in the tiny hair cells of the cochlea.

Research has also shown that individuals with other complications caused by diabetes cardiovascular disease, peripheral neuropathy, or encephalopathy – are more likely to experience hearing loss than individuals who do not have diabetes-related challenges.

The most important step you can take in preventing hearing loss and other complications from diabetes is to control your blood sugars. Diet, exercise, and appropriate medications all play a role in keeping your blood glucose within a healthy range. Educate yourself and see your physician as recommended!

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 Sources:

Diabetes Research Institute Foundation 

Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 

Tags: Audiology, Hearing, Hearing Loss, "ears"