A Link Between Hearing Loss & Diabetes

A Link Between Hearing Loss & Diabetes

Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA Uncategorized

Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA
Latest posts by Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA (see all)

Research shows that people with diabetes can be twice as likely to develop hearing loss compared to people without diabetes. This critical finding highlights that diabetes is a significant risk factor for declining hearing health. 

Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions that people experience. 1 in 8 people in the U.S. have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. Impaired hearing reduces a person’s ability to absorb and process sound. This has multifaceted effects that disrupt daily life including straining communication which impacts relationships, job performance, and social engagement. Because hearing loss is a permanent medical condition, identifying and managing risk factors is an important way to reduce or help prevent its development. 

Research Linking Diabetes & Hearing Loss 

Existing medical conditions is a common cause of hearing loss. This includes cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes. Various studies have investigated the link between diabetes and hearing loss, establishing a strong correlation. A major study highlighting this link was conducted in 2008 by researchers at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

  • Study: researchers analyzed data collected by the CDC over a 5-year period. There were 11,405 participants between the ages of 20-69 who had their hearing assessed and completed a diabetes questionnaire.
  • Findings: participants with diabetes were more likely to have hearing loss. Specifically, mild and severe hearing loss was: 
    • Low-Mid frequency sounds:
      • 21% percent in adults with diabetes 
      • 9% in adults without diabetes 
    • High frequency sounds:
      • 54% percent in adults with diabetes 
      • 32% in adults without diabetes 

These significant statistics show that compared to adults without diabetes, adults with diabetes were twice as likely to develop hearing loss. 

Impact of Diabetes on Hearing Health

Diabetes prevents the body from making or using insulin effectively. Insulin allows glucose -produced by the food we eat – into cells which the body uses for energy. If the body cannot make enough insulin or does not use the insulin that it does make appropriately, glucose remains in the bloodstream. This can lead to serious health issues like heart and kidney disease as well as hearing loss. 

Researchers suggest that this excess glucose (sugar) damages blood vessels and circulation in the body. This includes damaging the blood vessels in the inner ear which are integral to the auditory system. There are thousands of tiny hair cells in the inner ear and these cells help translate soundwaves into electrical signals. These signals then travel through auditory pathways to the brain which is then able to process and make meaning of the information, allowing us to understand what we hear. Damage to blood vessels and blood circulation prevent the inner ear from performing this critical function. This then makes it more difficult for the brain to process incoming sound information, resulting in hearing loss. 

How to Protect Your Hearing Health

If you have or are predisposed to developing diabetes, you should have your hearing assessed as soon as possible. Hearing tests are simple, non-invasive, and conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist. They measure hearing ability in both ears which identifies any impairment and the degree of hearing loss you may be experiencing. This information establishes your hearing needs and informs effective treatment options. 

The great news is that there are several useful ways that hearing loss is treated. The most common treatment is hearing aids which are small, electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. These devices, which are more innovative than ever, can significantly increase a person’s ability to hear. This not only improves quality of life, but reduces the risk of developing other medical conditions associated with hearing loss. 

In addition to having your hearing assessed, there are other ways you can protect your hearing health including: 

  • Maintain normal volume on electronic devices (avoid increasing volume!)
  • Take listening breaks so that your ears can rest and recover from constantly absorbing sound 
  • Wear earplugs, headphones, earbuds etc. when navigating loud environments 
  • Incorporate exercise in your daily routine which enhances energy and blood flow 

And, be sure to have your hearing tested regularly so you always know your hearing needs! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.