Diabetes Linked to Hearing Loss

Adults with diabetes are at an increased risk for developing hearing impairment, according to a recent study. It’s suggested by the study that diabetics are nearly twice as likely to suffer hearing loss compared to non-diabetics.

Hearing loss is often a result of aging, as well as exposure to very loud noises, genetics, and other diseases, but until now it has not been generally linked to diabetes.

The study focused on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which was conducted between 1999 and 2004. 5,140 adults between 20 and 69 years of age, were considered for the study. 399 of these individuals had been diagnosed with diabetes prior to the study, the majority being cases of adult onset type 2 diabetes.

Based on low (500-1000 Hertz), medium (1000-2000 Hertz) and high frequency (3000-8000 Hertz) hearing tests, it was concluded that diabetics were far more likely to suffer hearing loss than the 4,741 controls. The study concluded that for low and mid frequency ranges, given age adjustments, 21.3% of diabetics suffered hearing impairment, while only 9.4% of controls had this problem. High frequency hearing impairment occurred in 54.1% of diabetics, compared for 32% of controls.

A common symptom associated with diabetes is the constriction and damage of blood vessels due to high blood sugar levels, which is offered by the study researchers as a potential cause for the higher incidence of hearing loss in diabetics. Lead researcher Dr. Kathleen Bainbridge says, “It is possible that high blood sugar levels damage the small blood vessels and nerves of the inner ear, resulting in hearing impairment.”

Hearing loss in the past has not been of much consideration for diabetics, with a lot more attention being paid to other sensory debilitation’s, such as eyesight deterioration (often caused by diabetic retinopathy). This study suggests, as Dr. Bainbridge says, that “people with diabetes might benefit from having their hearing checked.”

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Bainbridge, Kathleen. Majewski, Steve. Annals of Internal Medicine news release. June 2008.

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