Hearing loss testing

Studies Show Higher Rates of Hearing Loss for People with Diabetes 

Dr. Molly Dillon Diabetes, Hearing Loss

Dr. Molly Dillon

Did you know that people with diabetes can be more likely to develop hearing loss? An estimated 37 million people have diabetes which accounts for 11.3% of the U.S. population. Additionally, nearly 1.5 million people are diagnosed with diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association. Studies show a link between diabetes and increased risk of hearing loss – a permanent medical condition that reduces capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. If you have diabetes, or you are prediabetic, it is important to also prioritize your hearing health.

Link Between Hearing Loss & Diabetes 

There are numerous medical conditions that can increase the risk of hearing loss. Studies highlight diabetes as a condition that is significantly correlated with hearing loss. A major study that investigates this link was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers collected and evaluated data for over 5,000 participants with and without diabetes. After also having their hearing capacity assessed, researchers found that among the participants with diabetes:

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

These findings show that people with diabetes were more than twice as likely to have mild to greater hearing loss of mid-frequency sound and that people with prediabetes experience a much greater risk of developing hearing loss.

Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., who led the research in this study stated: “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.” This study supports extensive research that identifies diabetes as a factor that increases the risk of hearing loss.

Impact of Diabetes on Hearing 

Diabetes is a medical condition that affects how the body processes glucose or sugar. The body breaks down food into glucose that enters the bloodstream. The pancreas produces and releases insulin to regulate blood sugar levels and to communicate to the body;s cells to absorb glucose which is used as energy. Diabetes describes either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or that insulin is not being used effectively. This results in excess levels of sugar in the bloodstream which can have significant consequences on overall health.

Diabetes can constrict and damage blood vessels, nerves, blood flow which is essential for the body’s systems and processes. This includes the auditory system – the sensory system for hearing. The ears absorb and process sound waves which are then sent to the brain. The brain further processes and assigns meaning to the signals received from the ears which allows us to understand what we hear. Constricted blood supply to the ears can reduce their capacity to perform an essential function in this process – converting incoming sound waves into electrical signals for the brain. This results in the brain receiving less auditory information, producing hearing loss.

Tips to Protect Hearing Health 

There are effective ways you can protect and support your hearing health, reducing the risk of hearing loss. This is important not only if you have diabetes but if you are also prediabetic. The CDC estimates that 96 million people, ages 18 and older, are prediabetic. Impacting 38% of the adult population in the U.S., this highlights the importance of prioritizing your hearing health. A few tips you can practice include:

  • Get your hearing tested. Integrating a hearing test in your yearly health check-ins is a great way to track your hearing health. This allows you to establish a baseline of where your hearing is at and identify any changes you may experience over time. Hearing tests involve a painless and noninvasive process that comprehensively measures your hearing capacities in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss and the degree of impairment that could be present. Getting your hearing tested regularly allows you to mark any changes and treat symptoms early.
  • Prioritize care for diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is especially critical to prioritize care for your health. This includes following any regimens, taking medications, and guidelines outlined by your doctor.

Contact us today to learn more about how you can protect your hearing health and to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation.