Diabetes & The Ear

Diabetes and hearing loss are two of America’s most widespread (and largely untreated) health issues. Nearly 26 million people in the US. have diabetes and an estimated 34 million have some degree of hearing loss. The numbers are so similar, you might wonder if there is a link between the two. The National Institutes of Health has found that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don’t have the disease. Also, of the 79 million adults thought to have pre-diabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30% higher than in those with normal blood sugar.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body is unable to metabolize glucose. Inside the pancreas, beta cells make insulin, the hormone required for glucose to be processed by the body. With each meal, beta cells release insulin to help the body use or store the blood glucose it gets from food. In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make insulin. The beta cells have been destroyed or never developed. People with type 1 diabetes generally have a family history of diabetes and the signs of diabetes surface by adolescence. They will need insulin shots to use glucose that enters the body from digesting meals. People with type 2 diabetes make insulin but their bodies don’t respond well to it. Some people with type 2 diabetes need diabetes pills or insulin shots to help their bodies use glucose for energy. Type 2 diabetes generally develops over time and occurs more often in people who are overweight and over the age of forty.

How are Diabetes and Hearing Loss Connected?

Diabetes leads to high glucose levels in the blood, which in turn causes severe long-term effects on the body’s ability to function normally, such as kidney failure, cognitive degeneration and vision changes. Diabetes can also affect the delicate hair cells of the inner ear, which can ultimately cause sensorineural hearing loss. It is believed that the hearing loss caused by diabetes stems from the effect high glucose levels in the blood stream has on the blood supply to the inner ear. Research indicates that diabetes can cause hearing loss of any configuration and severity. In other words, two people with similar body types, family history, environmental factors and lifestyle can have very different hearing losses. And, some people with diabetes will never have trouble with their hearing. Researchers are unsure of what causes this difference.


Controlling your diabetes with the proper medication as well as with lifestyle changes can decrease or alleviate the effects diabetes has on the body long term. To keep hearing loss from increasing unnecessarily, follow your doctor’s advice for best controlling your diabetes.

If a hearing loss does develop, a hearing aid can help compensate for the difficulty you may have with hearing, especially in the presence of background noise. Hearing aids have come a long way in the past several years and there are more choices in size, technology and even color than ever before. Working with an audiologist, you’ll be able to find the hearing aid that’s right for you and one that fits your budget.

So, what’s my first step?

Once you have realized that you’re not hearing like you used to, a diagnostic hearing evaluation by an audiologist is the best first step toward better hearing. Several tests are necessary to determine the extent of the hearing loss and its effects on communication. All of the necessary tests will be conducted during a one hour appointment and you will leave the office with a greater understanding of how the hearing system works, how your hearing compares to someone with normal hearing and how and why your hearing loss affects your ability to communicate.

If you are finding it more difficult to hear and understand and you have diabetes or �pre-diabetes,� it’s in your best interest to have a hearing test to establish a baseline in order to watch for any sort of progression in the hearing loss over time. And, once you have determined the extent of the hearing loss you can then work to find a solution. Call our office today and we’ll get you on the road toward better hearing today.

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