• Hearing Loss and Diabetes

    Greater emphasis is being placed on hearing health in 2015.  Especially as it pertains to hearing loss and diabetes.

    Physicians routinely ask their patients whether they have had their hearing checked. Beyond referring patients for hearing tests and encouraging treatment of hearing loss, doctors are now starting to inform patients of the risks they run if they ignore their hearing loss – dangers that include certain life-threatening co-morbidities.

    “Hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with Type 2 diabetes (which accounts for about 95% of all diabetes cases in the U.S.) compared to those who do not have the disease.” [1]


    Hearing loss is more prevalent in people with diabetes

    Physicians have another reason to recommend patients that report they have hearing loss. Researchers have discovered a higher rate of hearing loss in people with diabetes. Using tests that measure participants’ ability to hear in 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% in 399 adults with diabetes compared to about 9% in 4,741 adults without. Mild or greater hearing impairment at high frequencies was 54% in those with diabetes compared to 32% in those without. [2]

    Another significant 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.


    “Diabetics (are) 2.15x as likely as people without the disease to have hearing loss…broken down by age, people under 60 had 2.61x the risk while people over 60 had 1.58x higher risk.”[4]


    Evidence exists that diabetes may lead to sensorineural hearing loss

    Post-mortem studies of diabetic patients have shown evidence that diabetes may lead to sensorineural hearing loss by damaging the nerves and blood vessels of the inner ear due to pathologic changes that associates with the condition. These include:

    • Sclerosis of the internal auditory artery
    • Thickened capillaries of the stria vascularis
    • Atrophy of the spiral ganglion
    • Demyelination of the eighth cranial nerve

    It appears the damage is more common in patients with Type 2 diabetes.

    “It is possible that diabetic patients can have normal or near-normal hearing at the time of the initial identification of diabetes, only to suffer from a progressive form of sensorineural hearing loss.”[5]

    [1] National Institutes of Health News. Hearing Loss is Common in People with Diabetes. 2008 (http://www.nih.gov/health/jun2008/nnidk-16.htm)
    [2] National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Annals of Internal Medicine. 2008
    [3] Annals of Internal Medicine. NIH Public Access. Diabetes and Hearing Impairment in the United States: Audiometric Evidence from the National health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 1999-2004. Kathleen E. Bainbridge, PhD, et al. 2008.
    [4] Fox News.com. Diabetes may be linked to hearing loss, study finds. 2012 (http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/12/03/diabetes-may-be-linked-to-hearing-loss-study-finds/)
    [5] Hendricks, J. et al (2006). Progressive sensorineural hearing impairment in maternally inherited diabetes mellitus and deafness (MIDD). Otology Neurotology.27 , 6, 802-808