Hearing Health and Diabetes

This Saturday, November 14, is World Diabetes Day. So how does hearing loss and diabetes correlate?

Since the 1960’s there has been a connection between diabetes and hearing loss, but until recently there was no real answer on what that connection was.

The National Health Institute (NIH) conducted a study in 2008 with over 4,700 individuals that proved that hearing loss is two times as common in adults that have diabetes. According to the NIH, “the researchers discovered the higher rate of hearing loss in those with diabetes after analyzing the results of hearing tests given to a nationally representative sample of adults in the United States. The test measured participants’ ability to hear low, middle, and high frequency sounds in both ears. The link between diabetes and hearing loss was evident across all frequencies, with a stronger association in the high frequency range.” Roughly 54% of individuals with diabetes reported hearing loss for high frequency sounds while only 32% of individuals without diabetes reported hearing loss for high frequency sounds.

Why might this be? One possibility is poor circulation that individuals with diabetes suffer from. High levels of blood sugar can damage blood vessels reducing blood flow to certain areas which would in turn cause damage to the inner ear. According to the NIH, “autopsy studies of diabetes patients have shown evidence of such damage.”

The Diabetes Prevention Program states that “people can delay and possibly prevent the disease by losing a small amount of weight (5 to 7 percent of total body weight) through 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week and healthier eating.” It is also important for individuals with diabetes to get a routine hearing screening as part of their annual health examination.

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