Hearing Loss and Diabetes

Diabetes and hearing loss are two of America's most widespread health concerns.

An estimated 38 million people have a significant hearing loss and an estimated 26 million people in the United States have diabetes.¹ ² According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is a link between diabetes and hearing loss.³ In fact, it is about twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those who do not have the condition.³ Additionally, the rate of hearing loss is 30% higher in people thought to have pre-diabetes than in those with normal blood sugar.

  • How does diabetes contribute to hearing loss?

    Hearing depends on a tiny pea-sized structure called the cochlea which is situated deep in your ear. Tiny, delicate hair cells in the cochlea communicate signals to your brain, allowing you to hear different pitches and sounds.

    The NIH states that diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both.³ Researchers suggest that diabetes may lead to hearing loss by damaging nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear, reducing the ability to hear.¹

  • Where can I get my hearing tested?

    Ask your primary care doctor for the name of a reputable hearing specialist, such as an audiologist or ENT. That person will then be able to give you a full hearing exam, from which you will be able to learn more about your hearing loss and how to treat it.

  • How can my hearing loss be treated?

    It is important to educate yourself about the hearing solutions that may be available to you. With today's advanced technologies, many cases of hearing loss can be successfully treated with hearing aids. For severe to profound hearing loss, cochlear implants may be your best option. Talk with your doctor about your individual needs and what you can expect from different treatment options.

I know I have diabetes, but how do I know if I have a hearing loss?

The symptoms of hearing loss can happen subtly over lime, or they can appear suddenly. It is important to be aware of the common signs since they can be hard to notice:
  • Often asking people to repeat themselves
  • Difficulty following conversations involving more than two people
  • Thinking that others sound muffled or arc mumbling
  • Trouble hearing in noisy situations
  • Problems hearing women and children
  • Turning up the TV or radio to a loud volume
  • Responding inappropriately in conversations
  • Reading lips when people speak to you

  1. American Diabetes Association. Retrieved from: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/seniors/hearing-loss/. Accessed may 17, 2012
  2. Center for Hearing and Communication. Retrieved from: http://www.chchearing.org/about-hearing-loss/facts-about-hearing-loss. Accessed May 17, 2012.
  3. National Institutes of Health. Hearing Loss Is Common in People with Diabetes. Retreived from: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2008/niddk-16.htm. Accessed May 17, 2012.