Researchers have discovered a higher rate of hearing loss in people with diabetes. Using tests that measure participants’ ability to hear at the low, mid, and high-frequencies in both ears, the results indicated a link between diabetes and hearing loss at all frequencies, with a somewhat stronger association in the high-frequency range. Mild or worse hearing of low- or mid-frequency sounds was about 21 percent in 399 adults with the condition compared to about nine percent in 4,741 adults without. Mild or greater hearing impairment at high frequencies was 54 percent in those with the condition compared to 32 percent in those without.
Links to Diabetes
Another signifcant study examined hearing data from participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2004. Of the more than 5,000 individuals who took part, hearing loss appeared in 15% of those without diabetes and more than 30% in those diagnosed with diabetes.3 The research team’s report concluded that screening for hearing loss would allow for early medical intervention that could improve hearing for adults with diabetes.
Evidence exists that diabetes may lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
Post-mortem studies of diabetic patients have shown evidence the condition may lead to sensorineural hearing loss by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear due to the pathologic changes that are associated with the condition.
1. Sclerosis of the internal auditory artery.
2. Thickened capillaries of the vascularis.
3. Atrophy of the spiral ganglion.
4. Demyelination of the eight cranial nerve.
It appears the damage is more common in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
Physicians are encouraged to inform their patients about the evident link between hearing loss and diabetes.
Let patients who have not yet been diagnosed with diabetes know that having their hearing tested is important beyond identifying the hearing loss itself – it could be an early indicator of the onset of the condition or other cardiovascular conditions. Encourage patients to report any suspected or known hearing loss to their primary doctor for the sake of their overall health.
As for patients who have already been diagnosed with diabetes, remind them that hearing loss is a potential complication and encourage them to have their hearing tested annually. The earlier hearing loss is diagnosed, the more elective treatment options, such as hearing aids, are likely to be.